Edinburgh must relight the fire

Perhaps it doesn’t say much that at BT Murrayfield on Friday night, the speed and conviction with which the platter of press box sandwiches was seized upon at half-time far exceeded that of any of the fare served on the pitch.

Journalists, by their nature, are hungry beasts, and with a complementary can of Guinness – well, it would be rude not to…God, I love this new sponsorship lark – at hand to wash down the dainty canapés, sustenance (and the promise of more Guinness) was about the only option available to help one through another forty minutes of wholly unappetising rugby between Edinburgh and Connacht.

The now-customary battle with the stadium wifi provided an altogether more apt summary of the 13-14 reverse, courtesy of Willie Faloon’s try, suffered by Alan Solomons’ men: erratic, convoluted, and utterly infuriating.

Gone was the energy and vigour that characterised Edinburgh’s opening-day triumph at Thomond Park. Absent too was the imposing graft and dog in the tight so significant in that victory – and how.

In their place festered a bizarre lethargy permeating almost every facet of the home side’s play. Connacht’s midfielders were given swathes of carpet-like hybrid turf to trot into, and it was chiefly down to handling errors and poor decision-making that the Irishmen could not take advantage.

Laborious attack proved the order of the day; it was no coincidence that Edinburgh were at their most potent on the rare occasions they did inject some zip into their offence, or some purposeful running through first-half try-scorer Cornell du Preez, who would be later be denied a second by the TMO.

But the scrummaging woes topped the lot; they were more a medieval claymore than a thorn in Edinburgh’s side. Despite appearing to have the better of the battle up front, Solomons’ pack shipped five penalties and two free kicks – culminating in a yellow card for prop WP Nel – from the ten scrums they were awarded.

Whether caused by intransigence – even if you don’t agree with the referee, it shouldn’t take seven infringements and a yellow card to conform to his preferences – or error, it crippled the hosts’ capacity to earn possession and territory.

Little wonder the decisions of arbiter Gary Conway are coming under heavy scrutiny from the capital coaches.

A crestfallen Ross Ford deserved credit for wearily climbing the stairs to the press box and facing the inevitable inquisition with all the delicacy he could muster.

‘What went wrong at scrum-time, Ross?’ I asked.

‘Aye, well…’ he murmured testily in his Borders brogue. ‘…Maybe you can tell me.’

Had he, as captain, not to mention hub of a front-row haemorrhaging penalties, approached Conway for explanation or mitigation, queried another scribbler.

‘I tried, but he wasn’t very cooperative. It felt as if he wasn’t even listening.’

It spoke volumes that Solomons’ counterpart, Pat Lam, was almost as frustrated with his team’s performance as the wily South African.

‘We’re disappointed in the changing room just now,’ he said.

‘We know there were a lot of opportunities there that we messed up with handling errors, we missed tackles and so forth.

‘Alan and I are both disappointed. It had the potential to be a cracking game on a beautiful pitch…both teams missed an opportunity to put on a good display through basic errors.

‘Some of our players will look back at the video and cringe,’ he went on to say, acknowledging the youthful look to his backline and the more expansive game-plan he has introduced.

‘I know it’s harder down there, but there were so many opportunities and spaces, and we kicked the ball away.’

Both Edinburgh captain and coach lambasted the ‘totally unacceptable’ passiveness on show after the thrilling high of Limerick. Yet the mantra of the previous week had been to sustain and build upon that showing; this from a side infamous for inconsistency.

The squad head for Swansea this weekend and an Ospreys team shorn of four Lions, but still sitting atop the PRO12 table after two wins from two. Plainly, the fire roars in their bellies after Friday’s failings, but will it still burn bright on matchday?

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One comment on “Edinburgh must relight the fire

  1. suffolkscot on

    Ford at a loss to explain the mistakes in the scrum, ref not listening…. well do something about it change your approach talk to your fellow front row partners and decide what your going to do.dont just keep giving away penalties.

    Also Murrayfield must be a killer for atmosphere when Edinburgh play they have to move to somewhere in Edinburgh that can add some kind of atmosphere for the team.

    Oh and good luck to the YES campaign tomorrow

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