Agen 10-31 Edinburgh: Visitors start Challenge Cup with bonus-point win

By Andy BurkeBBC Scotland in Agen
Hickey added four penalties and a conversion for Edinburgh
Hickey added four penalties and a conversion for Edinburgh
European Challenge Cup
Agen (3) 10
Try: Masilevu Con: Lagarde Pen: Vincent
Ednburgh (21) 31
Tries: Taylor 2, Hoyland, Fenton Cons: Hickey 4 Pen: Hickey

Edinburgh held off Agen to open their European Challenge Cup campaign with a bonus-point win in France.

The Scots appeared to be in cruise control as George Taylor ran in two tries and Damien Hoyland added a third to establish a 21-3 half-time lead.

The performance dipped significantly after the break, and Benito Masilevu's try gave the French side hope.

But Cameron Fenton scored at the death to secure the bonus point.

After a thrilling run in last season's Champions Cup, the second tier European competition is not where Edinburgh wanted to be.

Richard Cockerill made 12 changes from the side that beat Dragons, but the head coach was adamant his team would be taking the competition seriously.

His men looked keen to back that up. After Thomas Vincent had kicked the home side into an early lead Edinburgh conjured a superb try.

Centres Taylor and James Johnstone both made incursions and Eroni Sau fed the ball back to Johnstone. Taylor was on hand to finish off a brilliant move that he started for his first try for Edinburgh.

Taylor was impressing in the midfield and he did not have long to wait for his second try, coming in on a great line to take Grant Gilchrist's excellent pass to power over.

Cockerill's decision to rest so many key men was looking shrewd. From turnover ball Damian Hoyland spotted open prairie behind the Agen defence, chipped ahead and gathered to score.

The French side in the first half looked every inch the team that is languishing second bottom of their domestic league, but Edinburgh's intensity dropped after the break and they were punished.

For the first time Agen managed to break the Edinburgh defence and they manufactured an overlap out wide for winger Masilevu to cross in the corner.

The home side now sensed there was something in this for them, and some last-ditch defending saw Agen players held up over the Edinburgh line twice in a matter of minutes as they pushed hard to reduce the deficit.

Ultimately the limitations to the home side's play rendered them unable to fashion another try, and it was Edinburgh who were pushing late on for that crucial fourth try.

After several attempts were halted illegally, Edinburgh's rolling lineout maul rumbled over the line way for Fenton to score beyond the 80 minutes to secure the bonus point and a perfect start to their European campaign.

It's French opposition for Edinburgh again next week as they take on Bordeaux at Murrayfield.

Agen: Saurs, Masilevu, Sadie, Decron, Taulagi, Berdeu, Verdu; Tetrashvili, Martinez, Ryan, Murday, Zafra, Jegerlehner, Pearce, Briatte.

Replacements: Zarantonello, Vanai, Motoc, Hayes, Chauveau, Puletua, Tolot, Desmaison.

Edinburgh: Hoyland, Sau, Johnstone, Taylor, Farndale, Hickey, Shiel; Bhatti, Fenton, Berghan, Thomson, Gilchrist, Barclay, Ritchie, Haining.

Replacements: Willemse, Sutherland, McCallum, Carmichael, Miller, Nutton, Baggott, Fife.

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