EDINBURGH were beaten for just the second time this season today - and like their earlier defeat by Benetton, this was an agonising single-point loss in the dying minutes of a match which they might well have won. 

After seeing his team win their previous six games in a row, Mike Blair was not too downhearted by this Challenge Cup result. That is partly because their overall record has been so good since he took over, and partly because he believed that London Irish deserved the victory after fighting back in the dying minutes despite being a man down following Agustin Creevy’s red card for a head butt on Jamie Ritchie.

But it is also because, quite simply, the coach was willing to put this one down to experience, and is convinced that his team can become all the better if they learn the lessons of letting this Pool C match slip away from them.

“We’re frustrated with that,” Blair admitted. “Sometimes when you have a red card it can galvanise a team as well, and potentially you can relax a little bit thinking that 15 v 14 and you’re six points up.

“Sometimes you learn more in defeat than you do in victory. We’ve got some inexperienced players in there and we’re going to learn a lot from that. It’s frustrating that we’ve lost the game. We’ve won some close games as well - and we’ll lose some more close games. Frustrating that we’ve not come away with the victory when we’ve put ourselves in the position to do that.

“Fair play to London Irish. They kept going at us after their red card. They had a lot of the game. They deserved their win.”

Possibly the biggest down side of the day was the injury which could put Ramiro Moyano out of action for a few weeks. The winger picked up the injury in the act of scoring his side’s second try, and was seen on the pitch after the match in a protective moonboot.  

Edinburgh’s defence has been exceptional this season, and its qualities were to the fore in a first quarter dominated by the Exiles. Three times the home side looked certain to open the scoring, and three times they failed.

Eventually, it was the visitors who opened the scoring through hooker Adam McBurney, who got the ball a few metres out, spied a gap and duly barged his way through it. Boffelli converted to make it 7-0, but the lead lasted barely a minute as a rapid attack down the right bore fruit for the home team, with ex-Edinburgh winger Kyle Rowe - now in the running to be in the Scotland squad that Gregor Townsend will announce on Wednesday - finishing off. 

Paddy Jackson’s conversion levelled the scores, but Edinburgh were soon ahead again after a kick out on the full gave them a lineout 20 metres from the line. The attack was held up after going left, but the switch right saw Moyano come in on an excellent line and reach out to touch down as he was tackled. Boffelli converted, then just before the break Jaco van der Walt, on for Moyano, put Edinburgh ten points ahead with a penalty.

The second half began quietly enough, but it burst into life when Ollie Hoskins touched down from close range to leave Jackson an easy conversion. That made it a three-point game, but Irish hopes of continuing the fightback seemed to suffer a blow when Creevy saw red for his head contact with Ritchie as the Edinburgh man lay on the ground.

A second penalty from Van der Walt put Edinburgh six points clear, but Irish fought furiously after that to get back on terms. On several occasions it looked like they were the team with the extra man as they found space out wide in attack, but in the end it was sheer brute strength through the middle that gave them the winner as substitute Ollie Cracknell scored just to the left of the posts, leaving Jackson the easiest of conversions to win the game. 

Scorers: London Irish: Tries: Rowe, Hoskins, Cracknell. Cons: Jackson 3. 

Edinburgh: Tries: McBurney, Moyano. Cons: Boffelli 2. Pens: Van der Walt 2.

London Irish: L Cinti; K Rowe, C Rona, B Janse van Rensburg, O Hassell-Collins; P Jackson, N Phipps; W Goodrick-Clarke (A Dell 62), A Creevy, O Hoskins (L Chawatama 52), G Nott (A Coleman 52), R Simmons (B White), M Rogerson (captain, M Cornish 59), T Pearson, A Tuisue (O Cracknell 57). 

Edinburgh: H Immelman; E Boffelli, M Currie, J Lang (C Dean 59), R Moyano (J van der Walt 33); B Kinghorn, B Vellacott; B Venter (P Schoeman 46), A McBurney, W Nel (L Atalifo 63), J Hodgson (M Sykes 53), G Gilchrist (captain), N Haining, J Ritchie, M Bradbury (C Boyle 59). 

Referee: G Gnecchi (Italy).

Attendance: 5,850.