A second half comeback from Edinburgh was not enough to prevent them crashing out of the European Challenge Cup at the hands of Top 14 leaders La Rochelle.

Identical tries from line-out mauls by hooker Jeremie Maurouard in the opening ten minutes sent the French side on their way, before Edinburgh responded with a well-worked score from Phil Burleigh.

But thanks to some weak tackling, La Rochelle scrum-half Arthur Retiere was allowed to score from 60m out, before setting up Steve Barry to go in under the posts.

Ross Ford replied just before the break and Hamish Watson touched down shortly after it to give Edinburgh hope.

But the boot of Brock James kept the visitors in control and they eventually saw out the game to progress to the semi-finals.


Edinburgh started the game poorly with a string of errors allowing the powerful La Rochelle pack field position.

And after a sliced clearance from Blair Kinghorn they had the opportunity to demonstrate just what they were capable of with a lineout 10m from the Edinburgh line. They duly delivered when a maul eased over with Maurouard at the base to open the scoring. James added the extras to give the French side the perfect start.

Edinburgh’s season has been an infuriating case of groundhog day and this match was no different. Acting head coach Duncan Hodge must have been fuming as he watched his side give away a penalty at the breakdown which set up Maurouard to rumble over in identical circumstances just five minutes later.

Edinburgh did rally after going 14-0 down and won a penalty which they kicked to touch.

They were rewarded for their ambition when from the resulting lineout, some slick passing gave Phil Burleigh space on the right and he fended off a would-be tackler to go over in the corner and spark the Edinburgh fans into life after 20 minutes.

But once again sloppy defending undid all their good work. Scrum half Letiere, electric all night, was allowed to run round the blind-side with no defence to be seen and brush off Kinghorn to score in the corner.

Yet the embarrassing ease of Retiere’s try did nothing to convince Edinburgh to improve their fringe defence.

And big number eight Kevin Gourdon took advantage as he bullied his way through the ruck area and produced a sublime offload to Retiere who then set up Steve Barry to coast under the sticks.

Ross Ford managed to bulldoze his way over after Viliame Mata crafted a superb offload of his own, but when the whistle blew just seconds later, the 26-12 deficit felt like a Mont Blanc sized mountain to climb.

But Edinburgh did make a fist of it, Hamish Watson almost single-handedly dragging the rest of his team along with him as he put in another monstrous performance.

First he scored the try which brought Hodge’s men to within a converted score, in the right place at the right time to take advantage of a ridiculous bounce offload from Mata.

It was then his kick which resulted in a yellow card for La Rochelle substitute Lekso Kaulashivili as he brought down the chasing Damien Hoyland. Duncan Weir knocked over the resulting penalty and suddenly it was game on, 26-22.

But unlike in Groundhog day, the Edinburgh cycle of madness seems never-ending. As has happened so often this season they built pressure on the opposition line and wasted it.

Not one, but two overlaps were lost to sloppy handling in the final 15 minutes, and it allowed La Rochelle to ease the pressure.

The runaway French leaders turned the screw up front and Edinburgh had no answers. Two James’ penalties in the final ten minutes saw them over the line and continue their fine season.

As for Edinburgh, they must be desperate for theirs to end.

Edinburgh: Blair Kinghorn, Damien Hoyland, Chris Dean, Phil Burleigh, Tom Brown, Jason Tovey, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne; Murray McCallum, Ross Ford (capt), Simon Berghan, Anton Bresler, Grant Gilchrist, Viliame Mata, Hamish Watson, Cornell du Preez.

Replacements: Stuart McInally, Kyle Whyte, Kevin Bryce, Fraser McKenzie, Viliami Fihaki, Nathan Fowles, Duncan Weir, Glenn Bryce.

La Rochelle: Kini Murimurivalu, Steeve Barry, Paul Jordaan, Pierre Aguillon, Eliott Roudil, Brock James, Arthur Retiere; Mike Corbel, Jeremie Maurouard, Mohamed Boughanmi, Jason Eaton (capt), Mathieu Tanguy, Romain Sazy, Levani Botia, Kevin Gourdon.

Replacements: Hikairo Forbes, Dany Priso, Lekso Kaulashvili, Leandro Cedaro, Victor Vito, Alexi Bales, Vincent Rattez, Benjamin Noble.