Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


PRO14 Round 5: Edinburgh 31-30 Benetton and the First Term Report Card

Richard Cockerill, Edinburgh Head Coach
Edinburgh Head Coach Richard Cockerill - pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography

The headline is that Edinburgh secured a 5 point win against Benetton on Friday night at BT Murrayfield, but the devil is very often in the detail and this game was no different.

Edinburgh scored 4 tries through Matt Scott, Blair Kinghorn, Duhan van Der Merwe and Dougie Fife. Fife’s try showed that this team can execute a speedy move in the back line and was a thing of beauty, as was the timing of Simon Hickey’s pass to pop van Der Merwe into space for his try.

In what is now becoming a familiar scenario Edinburgh had the majority of possession, and before injuries and the Gilchrist yellow card disrupted it their scrum was dominant.

That was the positive side. On the debit side: they defended atrociously. Benetton scored 5 tries, handed Edinburgh a lesson in offloading and only some poor kicking from first Tomasso Allan then Ian McKinlay allowed Edinburgh to escape with their dignity intact. Benetton did get two bonus points in losing, which was the least they deserved. Their first try in particular was frankly embarrassing as two Edinburgh defenders flapped at winger (and sponsor’s man of the match) Luca Sperandio and a third looked like he considered tackling to be an optional extra.

They live to fight another day and I’m sure many Edinburgh supporters will cast an eye back to roughly this time last year when it was Benetton that left Myreside with the win, so it’s not all doom and gloom.

SRBlog Man of the Match – This award has to be for someone who has been outstanding both in attack and defence and in this case no-one in an Edinburgh shirt ticks both of those boxes so I’m going to leave the award vacant this week…

With one game to go before the Heineken Cup interrupts league duty you might say that it’s too early to assess where Edinburgh are – but if it’s good enough for your kids schools to make a judgement on how well they are doing before the year is even a third of the way through, then it’s good enough for us.

Progress D+

Progress is very much relative. Edinburgh look to have improved their squad but on the evidence of these early games, so has everyone else. The conference and the league look as if they are going to be much tighter than last year. After only 5 games no-one has a 100% record. Good for the league, not so handy for Edinburgh.

No one has fielded a weakened side against Edinburgh this year, so it could be argued that is progress of sorts. It is a result driven game though and that means that those results will be harder to achieve. Edinburgh need to learn to deal with that new reality lest we end up back where we came from in the TBC (Time Before Cockerill).

It’s also worth noting under “progress” that around a thousand more people turned up at BT Murrayfield to see Edinburgh take on Benetton on Friday night than were at Myreside last year for the corresponding fixture. Growing a fan base would indeed be true progress.

The team – C

I wouldn’t single anyone out here for criticism. Everyone who has taken the field for the club has been fully engaged but as Cockers has pointed out, “commitment shouldn’t be commended, it should be expected, really”.

Excellence has been in short supply this term. It’s only really in grunt that there have been standouts. Pierre Schoeman, harsh sending off aside, has excelled with ball in hand, in tackling and especially in the scrum. Luke Hamilton has surprised me as he didn’t look great in his first game against Ospreys but since then has been a real wrecking ball. Jamie Ritchie has done everything he possibly could to ensure that he is one of the first names on the team sheet each week even if versatility means that’s on the bench. Whilst acknowledging Cockerill’s commitment mantra you have to applaud the forwards for the gung-ho way in which they have gone about their business.

Edinburgh’s backs all fall into the 6/10 category. For those that follow the site regularly then you know that means – they’ve done their job but no more than that. They’ve been a bit one dimensional. Our most effective weapons, Blair Kinghorn and Duhan Van Der Merwe, have been underused.  I’m hoping that the abject defending of Friday night was an aberration but we have been especially weak on the flanks.  They just haven’t been firing on all cylinders so far which leads us neatly to coaching.

Coaching staff – C

There is no doubt that Richard Cockerill has made Edinburgh hard to beat and given them an edge that has been sorely missing in previous years. He has also, for the most part, recruited well on a budget.

However, it is in attack that we are lacking somewhat and given the resources at his disposal Duncan Hodge has to do much better.  Edinburgh so far this season have been blunt and seem to be content to wait for the opposition to make mistakes as opposed to creating much themselves.

Only Dragons have scored fewer tries at this stage.

League position – C

With 2 wins from 5 and sitting fifth in Conference B, Edinburgh are definitely not where they would like to be. This is concerning but there are mitigating factors.  In a league where away wins are as rare as a Leinster game without a Johnny Sexton flapping his arms like a bird, three of our first five games were away from home.  We’ve been to to the RDS (where we have never won), the Kingspan (Ulster lost only once there last year) and The Liberty stadium (not won there since 2009).

Of the teams who finished in the top 4 in conference B last year only Edinburgh have played more away games than home ones.  It evens out but the momentum from home wins can carry you far.


Edinburgh’s forwards are more than a match for anyone in this league so, if, and it’s a big if,  the backline can find the creativeness on a regular basis to break down defences then the rest of the season can be a good one. If not then we may well be looking at an early end to the year with no knock out rugby to look forward to.

It’s a stark assessment and just like a dodgy school report card it’s hard to swallow but the first step to improving is to accept that you need to. I’m sure that message will be loud and clear from Cockers.

Overall – must do better C-

9 Responses

  1. I agree about Ritchie but there is one major thing he needs to work on – his discipline. One Friday he gave away two penalties in quick succession – one of which resulted in 7pts for Benetton.

    All backrowers give away pens when they play on the edge but you need to become smarter and Ritchie is still at the stage of giving away the daft ones.

  2. On Friday we gave away 2 bonus pts to Benetton in the last 25 mins. Not forget bottling a victory against Ulster. This season our target is to either finish 4th and win the champions-cup play-off or ideally finish 3rd. But we will acheive neither if we keep gifting our rivals pts. Like we have done with Ulster and Bennetton

  3. Cockerill has sorted out the ‘easy’ stuff with respect to overall attitude. They’ve got some more grit now, at least in the forwards, and developing some talents throughout…but no more easy gains to be had.

    He hasn’t yet turned the team into proper “winners” in the sense of Leinster or Scarlets…budget and time of course are not on his side.

    I think we can’t expect more than 3rd in conf and in fact probably less assuming Ulster improve from a so-so season last year.

    So, I’d give them a C for now…lost opportunities to gain the upper hand (vs Ulster and Benetton esp.), but not “failed” yet…Cheetahs and Zebre both need to be wins though, or season is pretty much over.

  4. Very much agree with this assessment. As a new ER fan am enjoying the flashes of potential visible right across the squad but it is still quite a frustrating thing to see the leakage of soft scores and the woeful defence against Benetton. As an ex scrum player (dinosaur 2nd rower) am enjoying the scrum play Schoemann brings a whole new level and I felt his red card was very harsh. Still and all enjoying my 1st years supporting!

  5. Edinburgh overperformed last season in terms of results, stole a few close ones. It was always going to be hard to better last season, and it may still happen. Most teams have strengthened, Glasgow are an exception in going backwards under Rennie.

    Meanwhile it shouldn’t go unnoticed that Robbins scored 2 more tries at the weekend. One does hope Townsend is taking note.

  6. A player who has disappointed me so far this season is Duhan VDM, would like to see his work rate go up alot in defense.

    Would consider dropping him for Tom Brown who is a real dog in defense based solely on form atm.

    Apart from that we just need consistency in the halfbacks so we can get some shape going.

    That will just take time i guess but i think Edinburgh will get third in the conf and could beat toulon and newcastle and qualify.

    Also… the quality of the sides playing in the pro14 has improved alot in Edins pool.

    1. Agreed with VdM’s defensive deficiencies. He tends to give up far to easily as well and is happy to let somebody dive in unchallenged in the corner when making a tackle may cause a knock on or push into touch. I’d assume McRae is working on this but he needs to Improve in that area otherwise we are going to continue to be a soft touch defensively out wide. Would not agree with dropping him though, along with Kinghorn they are our only 2 “x factor” backs and we need them in the side as much as possible as they are our biggest attacking threat.

  7. I would like to see Crosbie getting more gametime at 6. I think he’d offer much more of the grunt and grit needed than Bradbury who may be a better player but is better suited to 8 and ideal to be competing with Mata there. Watson covers 7 with Ritchie able to step in at 6 or 7 and Hamilton another option across the backrow but mainly a 6.

  8. Overall I definitely agree with the overall assessment; but Benetton are on an upward spiral and I think they will cause a few shocks this year (especially if the kickers find form).

    There are frustrations but I really think the Pro14 is turning into one of the most competitive leagues.

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