EDINBURGH’s fine form this season has come with an asterisk attached.

By their own admission, the URC fixture list has been kind to them in the first half of the season, so while they are currently top of the league, they are well aware that there are far tougher tests to come.

Granted, they claimed an outstanding victory against their most illustrious opponents so far in this campaign - former European champions Saracens, in last month’s opening Challenge Cup Pool C game - but Saturday’s second match in the competition against London Irish proved to be a sobering reality check. The 21-20 scoreline certainly suggests that the match at the Brentford Community Stadium was a tight contest, as does the fact that Edinburgh only fell behind for the first but decisive time with a couple of minutes to go. But in reality they played second fiddle in many departments of the game for much of the time, and might well have fallen out of the running long before the end had it not been for some magnificent defence.  

London Irish scored three tries, through former Edinburgh winger Kyle Rowe, prop Ollie Hoskins and finally replacement Olly Cracknell, all converted by Paddy Jackson. But they also had a handful chalked off and should arguably have converted more chances than they did. 

Edinburgh scored two in the first half. Hooker Adam McBurney gave them the lead, Ramiro Moyano grabbed the second, Emiliano Boffelli converted both and Jaco van der Walt added a penalty. But they rarely threatened in a second half which saw them score only three points through another Van der Walt award. 

Moyano, who along with fellow-Argentina international Emiliano Boffelli has enjoyed an exceptional start with his new team, injured his achilles in the act of scoring and was unable to play on. When he went off the field, much of his team’s creativity seemed to go with him. The winger is now a doubt for the coming games, starting on Friday when Brive visit the DAM Health stadium. 

In brief, it was a chastening afternoon, although afterwards McBurney suggested that a defeat of that nature could be a far more useful lesson for his team than any straightforward victory would have been.

“Thankfully this week we’ve got a chance to have another bite at the cherry,” he said. “Going into the next couple of games and later on in the season, I think this game will actually stand us in very good stead, because we will learn a lot of things - and if we had won the game it would have been very easy to brush it under the carpet and maybe not take those learnings.

“We’re all just trying to build something here and play maybe a different brand of rugby that we haven’t in the past. It doesn’t just happen overnight - it does take a bit of time. You’re not just going to keep winning games comfortably: you need to go through these hardship games to actually learn.

“It’s not a case of us going back to the drawing board and rewriting something: there was some really good stuff we did out there and we know that. I think there were just moments in the game when we needed to be a bit more clinical so that we learn from them the next time we’re in those positions.”

One such moment came when Irish hit back all too easily through Rowe immediately after McBurney’s try, and although that might be put down to a momentary loss of concentration, a longer lapse followed the second-half sending-off of Agustin Creevy for headbutting Jamie Ritchie. It was only a glancing blow on the Edinburgh player, who did not need an HIA, but it appeared to have a more destabilising effect on his team - and a galvanising one on Irish, who from that point redoubled their efforts to get back on terms.

It was forward power that won it in the end, but earlier in the game it was the home team’s wide men who posed the greatest threat. In fact, although Edinburgh’s back division have deservedly been heaped with praise this season for their attacking verve, the outstanding players behind the scrum - certainly once Moyano had departed - were the two home wingers. 

On the left, Ollie Hassell-Collins must now be close to a place in the England squad, while on the right former Edinburgh player Rowe appears likely to be named by Gregor Townsend in his Scotland squad on Wednesday. An under-20 international, Rowe only made one appearance for Edinburgh at the end of last season before moving to London, and has thrived since.

“I don’t really want to say anything about that,” he said when asked if Townsend had been in touch. “I feel I’m in good form. If it comes about that I’m in the training squad or whatever, then class. If I’m not, I’m pretty happy down here just taking every game as it comes and doing what I’m doing.”