Saturday 16 December 2017

Edinburgh enjoy silent night in front of empty Murrayfield

Edinburgh 24
Castres 22

Edinburgh's Greig Laidlaw breaks through the Castres defence during their Heineken Cup match at an empty Murrayfield yesterday. Photo: PA
Edinburgh's Greig Laidlaw breaks through the Castres defence during their Heineken Cup match at an empty Murrayfield yesterday. Photo: PA

Alasdair Reid

The distance from Buenos Aires to Edinburgh is approximately 7,050 miles, which is a long way to go to miss a rugby match.

However, that was the experience of the parents of Esteban Lozada, Edinburgh's Argentine lock, whose plans to watch their boy in action on their festive visit to Scotland were scuppered when ERC officials decreed that their game against Castres yesterday should take place behind closed doors.

There were (almost) no exceptions. The ERC ruling was that only those whose presence was strictly necessary for the staging of the game could be admitted, so Juan Cruz and Lucy Lozada were locked out of the ground with everyone else.

Among those kicking their heels outside were around a dozen Castres supporters, although the stewards who blocked their attempts to get in may have done them a favour as the French club's 24-22 defeat is likely to have ended their interest in this season's Heineken Cup.

ERC did soften its stance by allowing media into the stadium. As it happened many of us would happily have joined the banned list on a bitterly cold day when chilled hands were struggling to open laptops, let alone strike the keys in any meaningful order.

Huddled in Murrayfield's west stand as the temperature plummeted far below zero, the privilege of having witnessed a unique and rather surreal rugby occasion was not foremost in our thoughts as we dived indoors for warmth at the end.

After a sudden snowfall had wiped out any possibility of the game being played on Sunday afternoon, its original scheduled time, ERC's stance was that it had to go ahead as soon as possible. The order was that the staff should concentrate on preparing the pitch rather than spectator areas, and with ice and snow around the stadium the decision was taken on safety grounds that the public could not be allowed in.

Did it bother the players? Not greatly, according to Tim Visser, who scored the first of Edinburgh's three tries and set up the second for Lee Jones.

"It was a little bit eerie when we were running out and there were no cheers or music," Visser shrugged. "But once the game started that was all gone and it was just us against them."

What Visser did not say was that Edinburgh are pretty used to playing in front of more than 60,000 empty seats. A typical crowd in the stadium for an Edinburgh home game is in the region of 5,000 souls, a lot less than its 67,500 capacity.

After trailing, Edinburgh stole the win, their first in this season's competition, three minutes from time when Simon Webster pounced on an error in the defence and raced over for the final try. It was the sort of high drama that would surely have brought a crowd to its feet. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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