Edinburgh Must Seek Knock-On Effect

Ulster 22 – 19 Edinburgh Rugby

Edinburgh’s at times glorious Heineken Cup campaign came to a close at the weekend with a narrow defeat to Ulster in front of an Aviva Stadium in Dublin heavily favouring the Irish province.

I have to admit it could have been a lot worse, given some of Ulster’s performances against the capital men in the RaboDirect PRO12. Luckily for the hearts and souls of the ever growing Black and Red army, the right Edinburgh turned up and put in a spirited performance, if not a great one.

It surely had the potential to be a great one, with Edinburgh able to subdue and probe Ulster for long periods of the game and the backs and forwards both breaking over the gain line more often than Ulster’s usual defence would allow. Their discipline was pretty good too; no silly yellow cards this time. In the end though there were a couple of factors hard to ignore that did for Edinburgh: the error count and the scrum.

Edinburgh were in disarray while Ulster were a power at scrum-time, forcing points to appear almost by magic  just when they needed them to kill Edinburgh’s momentum. In turn Edinburgh tended to force the issue and dropped the ball as if by magic just when they needed points, also killing their momentum. For every great offload and line-break (there were plenty of each), there was a pass thrown behind or dropped with an overlap there to use. For every try-line turnover where a wee number 10 snatched the ball off a giant South African Number 8 rumbling for the line, there was a woefully squint throw to the scrum-half at the lineout when a straight one to the pack would have done just fine.

These good moments can turn the direction of matches if used correctly, but as it turned out there was an awful lot of going round in circles.

Sure, Poite could have – should have – called the ball out of the scrum for Wannenburg’s try, and he should have carded Ferris for slapping the ball out of Blair’s hands – you can bet if it had been De Luca he would have been punished. But Edinburgh should have executed their basic skills throughout and scored the tries they always looked like they could score. Then all of that wouldn’t have mattered.

There were far too many passes dropped or thrown poorly for this Edinburgh team to have progressed against an Ulster team led throughout by the peerless Pienaar. Although Laidlaw was just as effective with the boot from tee, and led his team brilliantly by example as he has done all year, in the end the South African’s class was just a little more decisive with boot and ball. I imagine the gulf in pay cheques is much larger.

That they so nearly did win and the deficit was only a couple of points (Ulster put a total of 80 past Edinburgh in the league) is a great credit to what Michael Bradley and his young squad have achieved this year, and could achieve with just a little more concentration, a little more clinical play.

It is also heartening that barring Mike Blair, who is off to pastures unknown (the Perpignan move is apparently off), this same team could be fielded again next year. What about a backline of Laidlaw, Scott, Visser, King, De Luca, Jones, Brown for next season? That’s before you figure in the new signings such as Richie Rees, Greig Tonks or Ben Atiga. It’s a similar story in the pack, where the new signings will help add a little more depth off the bench than Edinburgh currently possess anywhere apart from the back row, but where the first string looks settled and powerful.

This Edinburgh team still has plenty of attack left in them, and the lessons they have learned this season in the Heineken Cup are probably more valuable than any these players may have had in an international jersey. The one about never giving up and fighting to the last gasp was on display again here with Thompson’s late try, and has been a hallmark of their season in Europe.

Long may it continue.

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11 comments on “Edinburgh Must Seek Knock-On Effect

  1. MJW on

    Interesting that in your suggested backline for next season you include Matt Scoot as the flyhalf.

    I’d prefer to keep him at 12 – he’s been brilliant there all season, and I’d love to see Scott link up with Ben Cairns when the latter is back to full fitness. It’s an area where Scotland needs far more depth. I don’t want to give Andy Robinson any more excuses to pick Graeme Morrison!

    The flyhalf berth will be a big question for Bradley next season. Laidlaw’s best position is at 9, and with Blair going you’d assume he would be first choice in that position. Godman is leaving, and we’ve only got Leonard and Hunter if Laidlaw is playing at 9. It would be a big call for Bradley to fully back one of them with a starting position. Mind you, it hasn’t done Duncan Weir any harm at Glasgow. He’s not much older than Leonard if I recall correctly.

    • Rory Baldwin on

      Yeah I just thought he’s played more at fly-half for Currie than even Laidlaw probably has and might be an option, I could be wrong though! He has been great at 12 but his size and pace are attributes wee Greig often gets criticised for lacking. Not sure what his kicking from hand is like though… Also, his twitter user name (probably set up before signing for Edinburgh) is MattScott_10, not 12!

  2. MJW on

    Cheers Rory, might save me some embarrassment.

    I hear what you’re saying re Scott at 10, but I think his extra size and pace merely add to the argument that he should be playing at 12, where he has more opportunity to step and break the line, or bust his way through it. Like you, I have no idea what his kicking from hand is like, but he’s too good a player for it to be totally turd.

    I think the national weakness at 12 settles the argument – at the moment, it’s him or Morrison/S Lamont. I think we all know which we’d prefer. In a year’s time Dunbar may be challenging at 12 as well, but right now and for next season Scott should be the starting 12 at Edinburgh and for Scotland. Leonard and Hunter look like they have enough about them to take Edinburgh’s starting slot at 10, or at least start getting more game time as subs for Laidlaw. Leonard looks very inventive with ball in hand, and Hunter certainly has some pace to him.

    Incidentally, this is an area where I think Bradley has made a mistake over the last few months. Rather than playing Godman during the 6N and after, he should have given the shirt to Leonard or Hunter. Godman is leaving, and it’s not as if the Rabo12 games in question mattered a great deal. Far more important, in my view, to give development players some game time than start an older player whose contract is expiring soon.

    • Dave on

      You could argue that godman has been given a chance to earn himself a contract elsewhere. Just a thought, no insider knowledge or anything.

    • Rory Baldwin on

      It has been a bit of a moot point though over the recent months as Leonard was busy with age grade stuff and Hunter is in NZ, but yes they do seem to have dropped off in favour of Phil. Maybe he made a deal with Bradley if they get him to 150 appearances then he’ll leave…

  3. mike on

    Good effort and spirit shown all round.

    The game reminded me of scotlands first 3 games in the 6N’s this year. Lots of good build up but no finishing when it really mattered. Lots for edinburgh to build on next season especially if they can find a solid scrummaging platform. Scotlands front row getting pushed about again didn’t help.

    Hopefully they will compete in the league properly next year.

    Come on Glasgow this weekend!

  4. R Lawson on

    I think your point about Ferris missing out on the yellow while someone like Nick de Luca would have probably picked one up in the same situation is a fair one. I don’t mind that Scotland or Edinburgh or Glasgow pick up yellow cards, but at least let’s have some consistency in the rulings. There was an almost identical instance in the Six Nations where Gethin Jenkins slapped the ball out of Jacobson’s hands right at the death of the first half and escaped a card, and here we have another one (and one that’s definitely more blatant) and nothing is done. Cynically killing quick ball in the oppo’s 22 should be a straight yellow, even more so when the attacking team is knocking on the try line.

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