Edinburgh showed all of their new resilience to come from behind three times in the second half and clinch a home quarter-final in the European Challenge Cup by beating champions Stade Francais with Junior Rasolea’s late try.
The centre was a late change for Chris Dean after a warm-up injury but had a fine game even before pouncing on replacement scrum-half Nathan Fowles’ clever chip to lift the capital side to victory.
A fairly nondescript first half turned into a thriller in the second, and while some of the defending won’t have pleased Richard Cockerill, the coach couldn’t doubt his team’s guts with much of the team out on their feet at the end but still strong enough to fight for the win.
Three times Stade scored tries to seemingly take a grip on the game but Edinburgh responded each time, the Blair Kinghorn conversion of the final score proving the difference.
“It was a game we had to win, almost a knockout for us,” said the head coach. “We can play better, we can defend better and control territory better, but I’m pleased again with the character of the team to stay in the game and get the result.”
Stade’s ferocious tackling stifled Edinburgh’s early intent to spread the ball wide but referee Tom Foley was vigilant at the offside line allowing Sam Hidalgo-Clyne to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
Three successive offside penalties brought a warning and the scrum-half’s early counter after six minutes, but Stade forced two kickable penalties themselves although they didn’t threaten the home 22. French international Jules Plisson kicked both for a 6-3 lead.
Hidalgo-Clyne levelled it on 20 minutes after Mata had been tackled without the ball, and when Jonthan Danty fringed blatantly offside at a ruck, the ref had enough and yellow carded the Stade centre.
Hidalgo-Clyne kicked that penalty to put Edinburgh back in front and another right on half-time for yet another offside by the Frenchmen.
But it took just six minutes after half-time for Stade to get into the lead, a third Plisson penalty followed by easily their best attack of the game, Sekou Macalou scoring after a series of penetrative drives from his big pack.
Plisson converted but Stade’s lead lasted just two minutes, a loose tap at a lineout falling in front of Charl McLeod and Hamish Watson grabbed the loose ball, handed off a defender and motored away from the cover over 40 metres for a try.
Hidalgo-Clyne converted but Edinburgh wasted a scoring chance by being penalised at a maul and Plisson landed his fourth penalty. Then Stade took the lead when wing Romain Martial went through a big gap in the home defence and Waisea Vuidarviwalu finished off at close range.
Edinburgh kept probing and within five minutes Jaco van der Walt froze the cover defence with a dummy and sliced through from 30 metres out for the try.
The stand-off missed the conversion but landed a penalty to put Edinburgh back in front with nine minutes to play, only for replacement prop Milikidze to dive through for a third Stade try almost from the restart, Plisson again converting.
Yet Edinburgh wouldn’t give up, and with a penalty advantage coming, Fowles’ neat chip into the in-goal area bounced away from Stade defenders and Rasolea pounced for the try, Kinghorn taking his side into the lead for good with the conversion.
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; D Hoyland, M Bennett, J Rasolea, D van der Merwe; J van der Walt, S Hidalgo-Clyne; R Sutherland, S McInally (capt), M McCallum; B Toolis, G Gilchrist; M Bradbury, H Watson, V Mata. Replacements: M Shields for Sutherland 67, F McKenzie for Toolis 67, J Ritchie for Mata 60, N Fowles for Hidalgo-Clyne 57..
Stade Français Paris: T Ensor; R Martial, W Vuidarvuwalu, J Danty, J Arias; J Plisson, C McLeod; H van der Merwe, L Panis, P Alo Emile; P Gabrillagues, A Flanquart (capt); M De Giovanni, M Ugena, S Macalou. Replacements: C Burden for Panis 66, Z Zhvania for van der Merwe 60, G Melikidze for Alo Emile 66, S Cerqueira for Ugena 66, B Meïte for Macalou 72, C Daguin for McLeod 58, J Yobo for Danty 60.
Ref: T Foley (RFU)