Edinburgh Rugby on Saturday became the first Scottish club to reach the European Cup semi-finals with a stunning 19-14 upset of four-time winners Stade Toulousain, while defending champions Leinster Rugby cruised past Cardiff Blues 34-3.
Edinburgh did it the hard way having at one point been reduced to 13 men in the first-half, but 14 points from Greig Laidlaw inspired them to a memorable victory against a surprisingly under-par French outfit.
Edinburgh’s victory at Murrayfield will come as a great antidote to the disappointment of the national side ending with the Six Nations wooden spoon.
“Hopefully it’s the big pick-me-up that we all need,” Laidlaw said. “It just shows that with the crowd as well there is the support for us.”
Edinburgh got off to a terrific start and rewarded the almost 40,000 crowd with a try inside the first two minutes as Mike Blair squeezed over after Laidlaw’s high ball was not gathered by Timoci Matanavou.
Two penalties from French flyhalf Lionel Beauxis reduced the deficit to 7-6 after 20 minutes before the hosts threatened to implode when they were reduced to 13 men.
Beauxis rubbed salt into the wound by slotting over a penalty to give the visitors a 9-7 lead.
Toulouse added to their lead with a wonderful solo try from Fijian flier Matanavou, who ran the ball back from the halfway line, brushing aside three tackles, for his eighth try of this year’s tournament and taking him to within one of the record.
Beauxis missed the conversion and Edinburgh reduced the deficit when Laidlaw dropped a superb drop goal from long range two minutes from the break to send them in only 14-10 down.
Laidlaw converted a second-half penalty and added another in the 52nd minute to send Edinburgh into the lead at 16-14 and added one in the last minute to crown a superb team and personal performance.
In Dublin, Leinster ran in four tries to crush Cardiff.
Welsh international Leigh Halfpenny kicked a third-minute penalty for the injury-hit Blues, but that was the visitors’ only highlight.
Flyhalf Jonathan Sexton kicked a penalty five minutes later to level the scores before the Irish side unleashed a champagne performance of running rugby.
A Sexton dummy allowed Rob Kearney to feed Kiwi winger Isa Nacewa for the first try after 12 minutes before Kearney added the first of his brace on the half-hour mark.
Sexton was key to the third try four minutes later when a lovely inside pass freed winger Luke Fitzgerald who in turn found veteran center Brian O’Driscoll who crossed for his 31st try in the European Cup.
Kearney added the fourth try early in the second period.