Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Cardiff 34-16 Edinburgh

Grant Gilchrist - pic © Al Ross
Grant Gilchrist - pic © Al Ross

As perennial underachievers in recent seasons, Edinburgh headed to Cardiff looking to give fans something to believe in. It was a first chance to see Glenn Bryce and Duncan Weir in league action for their new side, and a welcome return for Grant Gilchrist. They were up against a Blues side who had recruited well in the off season (Nick Williams, anyone?) and who also had a point to prove having inhabited the same nether regions of the table as Edinburgh for too long.

It started well enough with a scrum penalty earning Duncan Weir the first points, but from the first real incursion near Edinburgh’s goal, Steven Shingler (yes that one) sold Solomoni “Junior” Rasolea a pretty cheap dummy and skirted round him for the score to put the home side back in the lead.

When Edinburgh next attacked the Cardiff line, they proved similarly effective, which was good to see. A spell of battering at the line by the pack fooled the defence when Fowles moved it wide, but not as wide as they were expecting. Rasolea made up for his error by making Shingler in turn look foolish, cutting a powerful line close to the pack to get Edinburgh’s first try and restore the visitors to a 3 point lead.

Weir extended the lead with a long range penalty signalling his usefulness to a team with a strong set scrum, to cap a solid opening quarter as the rain came out of an eerie purple sky.

Worryingly though, Edinburgh’s defensive shape looked good but was all too porous whenever Cardiff used Tomos Williams’ pace from the breakdown, or Plan A: Nick Williams. The big man hammered through the Edinburgh defence from the base of a ruck, and only Duncan Weir could slow him down enough for the defence to regather. Shingler kicked another penalty to make it 10-13 with half an hour played.

From there though, referee John Lacey compounded the pain of losing Nasi Manu to injury, as Jamie Ritchie was sin-binned for killing a driving maul by the Blues which also led to a penalty try.

Weir had two long range penalty chances but slid one just wide of the posts on the left and one on the right.

HT: Cardiff 17-13 Edinburgh

Edinburgh’s woes continued just after the half-time break when Shingler slotted a penalty pretty much in between where Weir’s misses had been.

Edinburgh then put some good phases together with strong carries from Rasolea and Tofilau in the centre but they were operating in a fairly narrow channel which Cardiff found easy to defend. They did earn another penalty for Weir, which he slotted from out wide to make it 20-16 with half an hour left.

As the bench came on, Toolis and McInally tried to add some impact. It was a quiet game ball in hand for the wings Tom Brown and Rory Scholes, while Glenn Bryce played well as a a sweeper but didn’t get a chance to stamp himself on the game like Stuart Hogg did against Connacht. Defensively though the backline tackled hard and did their best to shackle a lively Cardiff attack.

You couldn’t say much for Magnus Bradbury’s high ball skills though, spilling a long range kick that allowed Cardiff a sustained period of pressure and denying Edinburgh a chance to close the gap; just when it looked like they would clear successfully, Lacey blew the whistle to give Cardiff a 5 metre lineout.

Stopping Nick Williams must be like trying to halt a train, and as the heavens opened a short range batter by the Blues was the best option and not even the stout figures of WP Nel and replacement loosehead Jack Cosgrove could stop him. When he’s playing well it’s almost unfair on anyone asked to tackle him, let alone anyone of civilian size. He will do well at Cardiff this season.

At 27-16 with just under a quarter of the match left and handling conditions rapidly worsening, it was a tough ask for Edinburgh who battled hard to regain a foothold on the scoreboard but they are not a team adept at chasing games. They looked unsure of themselves with the ball in hand and unable to pick holes without the likes of Cornell du Preez to punch them open. Everything was flat and meandering.

There’s a lot for Duncan Hodge and the other skills coaches to work on over the season.

Cardiff scrum-half Tomos Williams on the other hand had been finding holes all night, and when Cardiff came knocking in the final ten minutes the red defence held at first before he darted through a gap and slapped the ball over the line to secure a bonus point for the home side.

It was never going to be a revolution, but there was worryingly little sign of evolution either from Alan Solomons’ side who will need to find some sort of shape that they can use to get the best from Weir if they are to avoid basement-dwelling at the business end of the season.

SRBlog Man of the Match: Not too many to pick from with the pack not really providing any strong go-forward ball, although it was nice to see Grant Gilchrist play the full 80. The only Edinburgh player to really impact the game (good or bad) was Solomon Rasolea, so he can have it for a few glimmers of strong ball-carrying hope in the rain.

19 Responses

  1. Deary me Edinburgh (shakes head)….dreadful performance, simply dreadful. 1st game but Solomon and Hodge are skating on very thin ice.

  2. Is it too early to start a ‘Solomons must go’ campaign?
    Looked like ‘same old’ to me.
    The mindset and attitude of the team look depressingly familiar.

    1. Probably. However, there is a fundamental issue with Edinburgh’s attack. It’s clear from the outside, and Tim Visser gave the inside perspective in an interview with Jamie Lyall over on the BBC. It is the last chance saloon in terms of sorting that out. Otherwise his work here is probably done.

  3. Very disappointing from Edinburgh last night,they fought hard but seemed to lacking in confidence.No communication between forwards and backs.What’s happening with John Hardie and Cornell Du Preez.?
    Are they moving on?

    1. Du Preez was with his club side (Heriots??) as he had surgery not long ago. Hardie was late back from NZ due to visa issues and has spent the week working on conditioning.

  4. Dreadful to watch, particularly after the show Glasgow put on earlier. Missed Burleigh very badly – clueless down the back line, although I think someone did actually pass to Tom Brown about the 70minute mark.

  5. Edinburgh had zero shape as ever – so disheartening. They have so much to offer Scottish rugby (strong talent base, strong potential fanbase, between Murrayfield and a redeveloped Myreside, they have great facilities) and yet time and again they turn up without any visible structure to their play. They all just seem to get in each others way for 80 minutes. An away loss isn’t a particularly huge deal at this stage, but the manner did not bode well for the season. They need a coach with bigger ideas and fast.

    Glasgow, meanwhile, looked imperious. Before the game, I must have heard Nakarawa mentioned about 20 times. After 50 minutes, he was forgotten.

    When they get scrum parity and sort the discipline, they’re unstoppable. Sarto has returned balance to the back 3, offering strong ball carrying without being a liability like Naiyaravoro. Great signing.

    When you add Russell & Bennett back into Horne, Dunbar, Johnson, Seymour, Sarto, Hogg, & Jones (nm Vernon, Grigg, Hughes, Bulumakau, Murchie) – it’s an almost shamefully good back-line. Will be interesting to see how many of them stay for the Rennie era, as most are out of contract at the end of the season – hopefully such a highly regarded coach will be a strong pull.

    On a massively positive note: Dunbar and Gilchrist BOTH made it through 80 minutes without season ending injuries which is phenomenal.

  6. Edinburgh just look poorly coached. Solomons steadied the ship but clearly has no idea how to take this talented squad forward now.

    From Petrie’s comments it sounds like Solomons needs to deliver this season or be out. I’d be shocked if they aren’t already scoping out a replacement coach. Jason O’Halloran might be a possibility. Who knows, but Dodson’s regime has shown how much they value top coaching talent so I expect they will look to find the best name they can (Edinburgh probably doesn’t have much pulling power though).

    1. Hodge is the attack coach, he is specifically to blame for the awful back play. Cotter sussed him pretty sharp but as he’s on an SRU contract he was foisted on Edinburgh.

  7. The pragmatic part of me looks at a back line that was almost all entirely new to the club, learning to play together and experiencing the issues that come with that. It also looks at the weather and thinks that trying to play rugby in that is pretty difficult. It tries to reason that eventually getting a team playing well together will come.

    The more reactionary part points to the fact that the back line looked as poor as it has done for the majority of Solomon’s time in Edinburgh. The defense remains at poor as it has been for for the majority of Solomon’s time in Edinburgh. The decision making remains as poor for the majority of Solomon’s time in Edinburgh.

    I’m entirely expecting this to all come together as I feel it has to with the talent on the pitch but other than that, this team has been and continues to be absolutely rank.

    Something needs to be improved on fast because moving to a new ground with this guff would render the whole exercise moot.

    1. It’s hard to see beyond the sometimes woeful performance of Edinburgh. However, new backline; first game; away at a Cardiff side wanting to put last season behind them; missing a couple of experienced campaigners:- all these things are reasonable excuses. I don’t want to throw my hands up in despair yet. Our first home game (vs Scarlets) will be the telling point. If our defence doesn’t improve they’ll cut us to ribbons – but their defence didn’t look rock solid either so a lot to ponder for Solomon.

    2. Edinburgh’s defence conceded the second fewest tries of any team last year (if I remember correctly). They did well until just after new year, when their season went into a death spiral. I think it is time for Solomons to go but it is also important to recognise the last three years have seen improvement in some parts of Edinburgh’s game.

  8. Agreed. It’s hard to see any evidence of how Solomon’s ‘vision’ is going to take Edinburgh forward. His very much was a steadying the ship role, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to see how Edinburgh are going to progress beyond where they are now in terms of style and results. The gulf between them and Glasgow (on form) is spectacular, yet they have the same budget (as far as I know) and Solomons has had a few seasons to bed in now. They were probably a bit unlucky to end up where they did, given improvements in most stats. However, the attack has not really evolved.

  9. On the basis of this performance Solomon can start packing his bags now. Hodge should similarly start looking for a post (Premiership team?) where he can begin to regain credibility as he hasn’t a hope of being considered for the main job at the end of the season. A season of struggling at the lower end of the league is a certainty. Can’t see too many of the out of contract players sticking around unless the SRU pull another super-coach rabbit out of the hat. Whoever they identify needs to be found and announced soon so that they can start the rebuild, identifying the players they need to take the club forward. With this season a write-off, unless action is taken now, next season will be more of the same, getting rid of the dead wood and bringing in those who are willing to play for the jersey.

    1. I don’t think a lack of effort in the part of the players is a problem, I just don’t think some are good enough and the coaches can’t get the best out of the ones who are. Solomons, Hodge et al are a busted flush. I’d be minded to put a coach in place who can identify and cut out the dross, build a culture of team togetherness a promote willingness to express themselves without fear of failure. The talent Edin already have might finally flourish. Easier said than done and getting out of Murrayfield is crucial to this. If only Edin City Council and those vote hungry SNP idiots would spend a few bob on renovating and modernising Meadowbank as a multipurpose venue of 10,000 with Edin as sitting tenants…. ah to dream!!!

      1. I think Edinburgh have a pretty talented squad but the quality of coaching is letting them down. You just have to see the difference new coaching regimes made to Connacht and is now making to Cardiff. The issue is how well you can identify a coach that can make this kind of difference and whether you can attract them to your club. I expect the SRU are already looking and would have got rid of Solomons at the end of last season if they had a viable candidate.

  10. Well said Al, agree 100% with everything in your post.

    After watching both games its clear that SIMPLY Glasgow have excellent ball players in the backs -Horne, Bennett, Russell, Pygros, Hogg- Edinburgh have maybe Burleigh. (indeed I reckon Du Preez has “better hands” than most of the Edinburgh backs).

    I would like to see Pygros starting for Scotland with a 1st choice pack in front of him.

    SIMPLY Glasgow have everything in place, Edinburgh have the forwards & that’s it.

    1. I’d go as far as to say that Edinburgh have an excellent front row. There is no back division with a capability beyond defensive tackling and hence no Plan B. Victories are gained through one dimensional attrition a la the Italian national side. This is not a new problem, evidenced by the repeated failure to finish in the top league places. Hodge, as assistant coach (backs), has to carry a major part of the blame for the failings. Or as one anointed by the SRU is he bulletproof?

  11. Agree Highland Bear, right now its arguable that few Edinburgh backs would get into Glasgow 2nds, how has that situation been allowed to transpire??

    I have no issue with a sprinking of foreign guys in the 2 Pro teams, Matawala, Nakawara, DTH have been superb but I cannot see the point in recruiting NSQ players who sare in all honesty no better than some of the U21 boys (is Allen better than Robbins for example)

    Sam H C is an interesting point, when he arrived on the scene he was excellent however Edinburgh’s style does not suit him & it looks like (much the same as Tim Visser) he needs to move to pastures new to reinvigorate his career.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion