Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Time ticking for Solomons to halt decline

Another week, another grim showing from Alan Solomons’ Edinburgh.

In following hapless losses to the Ospreys and Connacht, and a fortuitous draw against the Scarlets with Friday night’s thirty-point whitewash at Ulster, the head coach again failed to reconcile his growing list of doubters.

At Ravenhill, Edinburgh played without leadership or direction, nor any glimmer of a discernible game-plan. Their defence was woeful. Their attack consisted of long, high punts, supplemented with painfully predictable – and equally ineffective – one-off carries by forwards who collected the ball standing still.

It is truly the new Edinburgh way.

Hark back to Solomons’ arrival in the capital in August of last year. Talk of stoic defence and structured pragmatism abounded from players and coaches alike.

There would be no more swashbuckling-cum-suicidal offloading rugby. No more running from anywhere and everywhere. And most importantly, the chronic leakage of tries would be stemmed.

This new, exotic taste tickled the palettes of supporters accustomed to seeing their side excite and infuriate in equal measure. At last, a spot of simplicity.

Yet fourteen months on, Edinburgh’s tackling is as suspect as ever. And for ‘pragmatic’, read ‘boring’. The set-piece is faulty and disjointed, and the attack has descended into a tangled mess of imprecise monotony.

There is little doubt that the style Solomons wants his players to adopt can prove fiendishly effective. Edinburgh battered the Ospreys, who at the time of writing, top the PRO12 table at Meggetland last season. They beat Munster, Gloucester and Perpignan on European duty.

Less than a month ago, they triumphed at Thomond Park for the first time ever employing the dogged defence and sturdy set-piece game their coach craves.

A pair of encouraging pre-season performances against English opposition coupled with that opening round victory in Limerick offered hope that his vision was taking hold. These wins remain but flashes in the pan.

Consider Edinburgh’s early-season 44-10 hammering of twelve months prior, at the Liberty Stadium, dished out by an Ospreys side stronger than the one that put a further eighteen points past them a fortnight ago.

Compare the performances. Compare the results. Compare the ease with which Rhys Webb glided through a gap most schoolboy teams would plug on his way to the try-line with the simplicity of Richard Hibbard’s double in 2013.

Personnel aside, what has changed? Where are the improvements?

We ought now to be posing a more difficult question: under Solomons’ stewardship, where are Edinburgh going?

The club appears listless, even soulless, playing fixtures as it does on an island of hybrid turf amid the vast ocean of empty blue seats at BT Murrayfield.

It has no identity, no heart, and these days, not a lot of Scottish-ness either.

The numerous overseas signings Solomons has made are not duds as some suggest – duds don’t play regular provincial rugby in any of the ‘big three’ Southern Hemisphere nations. It should not be overlooked either that in Matt Scott, Dougie Fife and Dave Denton, he is bereft of three of his most influential figures.

But few are surprised by the misshapen, oversized gaggle’s failure to curb Edinburgh’s decline. Of the many imports, only Cornell du Preez and in patches, Grayson Hart have made a tangible impact. Quantity over quality is the mantra. The team has suffered for it.

And one final thought: perceptive readers will note I chose not to omit the recent sponsor’s addition to the moniker of our national stadium. This is not to appease the SRU PR team; rather it acknowledges two letters that now bear great significance within the Scottish game.

These two letters represent a serious sum of cash and a note of caution for Solomons & co. In years gone by, the Union would have struggled to raise the funds to terminate his contract – or indeed hire him in the first place.

That is no longer the case and Solomons is not indispensable. We haven’t reached panic stations, not yet by any means. But time is ticking for the wily veteran to turn his team around.

15 Responses

  1. As a Glasgow and Scottish Rugby fan I find it frustrating to watch the lack of progress Edinburgh are making. I have given Solomens plans the benefit of the doubt but I agree with the article, surely time is running out…look at Townsend putting Zander Fagerson and Ali Price in the 23 for Treviso, surely it’s time to try some more of the young Scottish crew in the Edinburgh ranks….

  2. Had to watch the game online which meant listening to the BBC NI commentary (who had Andy Nichol). Interesting fact came from that: of the 23 man match-day squad, only 5 were actually born in Scotland and not a single one was from Edinburgh… Glasgow can do it well using just 3 or 4 foreign players to boost their Scottish squad whilst Edinburgh are left picking up anyone who has struggled to make it at Super Rugby level and may potentially have some distant Scottish grandparent. At least on a more positive note the first of these new BT academies was shown off up in Aberdeen. Maybe the start of bringing in more home grown talent.

  3. I thinks its a bit unfair to have a go at the scots just because they don’t come from Edinburgh, the problem is the club being based in Murrayfield is just not a home for them. They need to find their own home and build up from their. You just have look at Glasgow and being based at Scotstoun has done for them, I hope they stay there as I think they are building something special.
    Although I say don’t have a go at the scots I do think Ross Ford also needs to go somewhere new as I feel its not happening for him, he needs a new fresh challenge.
    As to where Edinburgh go from here well they have had there pre season conditioning to get in better shape, then got all our hopes up by beating Munster but to fall away like they have had after all the talk is amazing they will be the whipping boys of the league and a top six finish will just be a pipe dream.
    So COMMON EDINBURGH KNUCKLE UP and prove to Scotland you got the bottle for fight.

  4. If there was unlimited funds then I’d agree a new ground would be up there on the list but there isn’t. Glasgow moved to Scotstoun after success on the pitch. Cardiff moved back to the Arms Park believing it would reverse the big drop off in support. It hasn’t. All our funds and attention need to focus on the performance on the pitch. When that is sorted we can look at sorting the off field side of things.
    Was at Ravenhill and it was just a meek performance from the start. The home side were pretty average but they made up for performance deficiencies on the night with effort. I didn’t see that similar level of commitment from many of our players on Friday. Why I don’t know – under-trained, over-trained, lack of confidence, lack of belief, don’t understand tactics, don’t agree with tactics, lack of care. To me it’s nothing to do with where they are born, they just need pride in their shirt.
    I would say we need a massive reaction on Saturday but I’ve said that every week since the Connacht game…..

  5. Solomons”We missed a number of key players who could not play because of player management issues – Dave Denton didn’t play, Matt Scott didn’t play, Grant Gilchrist went off at half-time and Dougie Fife didn’t play.

    “When we play these top teams, especially in away fixtures, it’s important that we have our key major international players playing for us.”

    These guys are scottish internationals (also only 4 out of a starting XV), it goes without saying that you will be without them during periods of the season(injury/6N/Autumn internationals),… SIGN/SELECT COMPETENT BACK UP PLAYERS!!!

    The ongoing malaise in edinburgh only serves to highlight what a savvy operator Townsend is.

    Whilst Glasgow rotate their squad it seems to be in a manner that doesn’t disrupt them much if at all, It appears solomons changes it on a whim/uses a dartboard.
    Granted its not all the incomers fault but at least make it look like you’re not just collecting the money lads eh! To be nilled at a professional level is beyond embarrasment.

  6. Edinburgh continue to look extremely poor and if they fail to improve on last season’s results Solomon’s position must be considered. However, I think it is important to give coaches time and teams need stability to improve. That is not to say that Solomon’s regime is performing well or that there are many positive signs of improvement at the moment but we should be patient and reserve judgment until later in the season when we may be in a better position to act.

    As a small caveat to Edinburgh’s poor start, we have played away games to Munster, Ospreys and Ulster, all credible play off contenders. Edinburgh’s performances have been dismal but the actual results are probably not far off what we would have expected anyway. If we’d closed out the Connact game that would have been a healthy start. There is still plenty of time to make this season a success.

  7. I don’t mean a new ground as in 10000 seater stadium I just mean relocating to meadowbank or Hamilton Accies home.. Somewhere where they can grow from the roots up and a smaller ground which the crowd can make an impact would help, playing in a national stadium does not help there case.
    I take the point they have played some good teams away from home but what worries me is at home against two of the smaller clubs Edinburgh didn’t really impose themselves either. Playing away in Rugby is always difficult so home form really counts and for Edinburgh that is worrying

    1. The Connacht game was a missed opportunity and Edinburgh need to bury teams like that to improve. Scarlets have been a competitive team for a long time so I don’t think Edinburgh have any right to expect to beat them. Anyway, I’m not disputing that Edinburgh’s start has been abysmal, just that they still have every opportunity to turn their season around just by winning the games we’d expect to – two wins v Zebre/Treviso/ Newport would see them surpass last season’s record. Achieve that plus a couple of extra wins and suddenly Edinburgh are solidly mid-table and in with a shout of a top 6 place. They do need to start winning soon though and this weekend’s match with NGD is a must win.

    2. The vast emptiness of Murrayfield on a match day at Edinburgh is thoroughly
      depressing and gives a misleading image ( i.e. It says to everyone that no one wants to come and watch).
      Although there are usually at least 3,000 hardy souls, they’d create a better atmosphere in a smaller stadium. There must be a better method, such as ground sharing with Edinburgh Premier clubs, or even Meadowbank. It’s surely not beyond the guile of SRU to arrange this.
      They should market Murrayfield for bigger events, and only use it for high audience matches.

  8. Sorry Suffolkscot but playing anywhere other than Murrayfield costs money that is needed to patch the team up.
    As the SRU don’t own anywhere else it also means they would need to fit round the owners, hence our nomadic existence when we’ve tried it previously.

    I agree they’ve not been the easiest games but our performance has not been good enough. At least be called plucky in defeat rather than meek or tame. We’ve rolled over far too easily.

  9. Do I honestly think Edinburgh will have some kind of free
    Use of murrayfield i doubt it. There will be some
    Accounts way of the gunners paying to use murrayfield
    But is it honestly cheaper than going else where???

    1. I agree that Murryfield is probably not the best place for Edinburgh to play unless they can achieve crowds of over 25,000 on a regulr basis- unlikely at present. how about Myreside- home of the Watsosnians and, at least until recent years, it was one of the top grounds in the country.

  10. It normally takes at least 3 years to make a team and rome was not built overnight. My own feeling is that the coach should be kept until the end of the season at least but he shoudl be encouraged to look at hom,e bred talent rather than overseas duffers. tell him to get down to Melrose, Kelso, Gala etc as you can find plenty of great players in the amature ranks there and I’m sure they would be less expensive that secon rate players from the southern Hemisphere who are only here because they are unable top compete for teams in their homelands.

  11. Hopefully the imports were for a quick short term fix and after 2 seasons the focus can now be turned to bringing on Scottish players to slowly replace them

    1. This is what Solomons has explicitly said on many occasions. Although he has let too much talent drift west, he has also signed up plenty of EDP players and younger pros so it does look like he will keep to his word.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion