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Crushing defeat confirms magnitude of Solomons’ task

Imprecise.  Tiresome.  Disjointed.  Just three adjectives from a veritable shed-load that could be used to sum up Edinburgh’s performance tonight at the Liberty Stadium.  Scotland’s capital side slumped to a crushing 44-10 defeat at the hands of the Ospreys, conceding six tries, and emerging with precious few positives.

To say that the game, as a whole, lacked continuity would be akin to describing root canal surgery as mildly unpleasant.  This was an incredibly stop-start affair, punctuated by errors, free-kicks and penalties with frustrating regularity.  Referee Marius Mitrea did not help keep things moving along either, with a hefty reliance on the TMO for decisions he could have comfortably called correctly unaided.  As such, it was unsurprising to note that neither side were able to put many phases together, and that the flow of the game was heavily disrupted.

Before we are too critical of Edinburgh’s performance, it is important to establish one thing in particular – the Ospreys side they lined up against were no mugs.  Their squad boasted five British and Irish Lions, and plenty of seasoned Pro12 campaigners.  This was also a team the Scots had not beaten on their home turf since April 2009, and that finished five places and twenty-six points clear of them in last year’s league table.

Nonetheless, the visitors contributed heavily to their own downfall with a potent combination of ill-discipline and inaccuracy proving detrimental to their offensive efforts.  Edinburgh struggled badly to retain possession or subject the Ospreys to any sustained pressure in attack.  They commanded precious little field position, and when they did give themselves a platform from which to strike, they were nullified once again by frustrating errors.  Contrast this failure to capitalise on “red zone” ball with their hosts, who scored their six tries from just nine visits to the Edinburgh 22.

Solid carries from the impressive Aleki Lutui and David Denton were undone by mistakes at the breakdown, or handling errors in the loose.  When Dougie Fife made what turned out to be a rare line break for his side midway through the first half, he found his support lagging, and quickly became isolated.  This made for easy pickings for the Ospreys defence –who disrupted Edinburgh ball well at the ruck throughout the game – with number 8 Morgan Allen snaffling the ball on that particular occasion.

Last season, the Edinburgh defence was leakier than the proverbial Swiss cheese rowboat, conceding a sizeable fifty-one tries in the Pro12 alone.  That is before factoring in huge defeats to Saracens and Munster in the Heineken Cup.

In tonight’s affair, defensive awareness and perhaps a shred of naivety cost them, with Jeff Hassler’s try just three minutes into the match rather setting the tone.  Edinburgh had little answer to the Ospreys’ driving maul, and powerful work around the fringes from the likes of Richard Hibbard – who bagged two tries – and Tom Smith provided the platform for Dan Biggar to control the game from fly-half.

In midfield and out wide, overlaps and mismatches appeared in favour of the hosts time and time again.  To cite one example, as half-time approached, Edinburgh trailed by a manageable ten points at 13-3 down.  From a lineout just outside the visiting 22, good carries from Ospreys centres Andrew Bishop and Ashley Beck drew Nikki Walker out of position, and in from his wing.  The hosts attacked his side again, and although he had made up enough ground to make his tackle on Biggar, Greg Tonks stepped in unnecessarily, and allowed the fly-half to release Richard Fussell into space.  Fussell fed Eli Walker, who flopped over the line, and left Edinburgh facing a fifteen-point deficit at the interval.

It was perhaps most telling that, when the Ospreys lost Justin Tipuric to the sin-bin, they still outscored Edinburgh by fourteen points to nil.  Richard Hibbard put any prospect of a capital-comeback to bed as he barrelled his way over for his second of the night.  This followed another driving maul on the Edinburgh 22, and subsequent poor tackling from the Scots.  Walker then completed his brace just two minutes later, collecting a deft kick through from the impressive Fussell.

Coach Alan Solomons promised to implement major changes in his side’s gameplay, seeking a shift in philosophy from the traditional “Edinburgh way” of recent years, with plenty of running rugby and offloading, to a more conservative and pragmatic approach built upon the foundation of a solid defence.  Though a trip to the Liberty Stadium, particularly so early on in the season, may not offer much insight into the potential success of those changes, a six-try defeat does not sit well with the South African’s aspirations.

In his post-match interview, Solomons acknowledged once more the huge task facing him at Murrayfield, citing the thirty-four errors his side made in this evening’s loss.  For the rest of us onlookers, both the result and the performance that came with it only served to confirm what we already knew – much work must still be done to reverse the fortunes of Edinburgh Rugby.

5 Responses

  1. Depressing really to watch this game the day after seeing slick hands all round from Glasgow. Their offloads were well timed and runners had options, players actually read what was in front of them on attack. For as much focus as there is on Solomons, can he really coach a rugby brain into the squad?

  2. Improvements at Edinburgh will take time, we all knew that and there will be a fair few more thrashings before the end of the season.

    However, we are only 3 games into the season so there is no need to panic. Not only that but our losses have been away to Ospreys and Munster – hardly games we’d expect to win.

    Edinburgh fans have to just get their heads down and get on with it, much like the players. I’m sure things will get better and until then, we’ll just watch Glasgow live on BBC Alba for our rugby cheer.

  3. See thats another southern hemisphere lad to join edinburgh, can almost see why they do so badly, not saying these lads are journeymen but there’s nothing at stake for them and team spirit can’t be easy to generate. Unlike glasgow it appears. Granted I only call myself an edinburgh fan since my mum is from there originally, so i really could trade up and support glasgow, but every passing game/result seems to make that decision for me easier,…

    1. With the increasing likelihood there will be no HC rugby next year or money derived from it, it seems pretty irresponsible to keep signing up any SH player that fancies chancing his arm up north.

      Frankly, I think they’d do better clearing out some deadwood, promoting some younger players and consolidating their squad instead of adding dubious signings to it.

      I’m an optimist by nature and think we have to give Solomons time, but every player signed chips away at that optimism a little more.

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