A quick look at the Superbru app on Friday afternoon probably confirmed my own thoughts about the game in Cork. Overall only 2% of players expected Edinburgh to win and even in the Edinburgh fans group that prediction only rose to 6%.
Rather than dissect this game specifically – if you are reading this you already know many of the reasons that Edinburgh lost to Munster – I thought instead we could have a look at what is going wrong and right for the Blue and Burnt Orange so far this season.
Despite having backs capable of inventiveness we have not seen that aspect of our game often enough. There seems to be a reluctance at times to move the ball wide. Think back to games against Leinster and Dragons for example where we have racked up huge numbers of phases with one out forward plays yet come away with no points for the huge effort made.
We have a good 10, unfortunately, it’s two people. One, Hickey plays very deep which seems to give the opposition huge amounts of time to set themselves for our attacks but has a tremendous boot. The other, Van Der Walt plays at the gain line but his kicking is average at best.
Due to injuries we have suffered badly in this last period. John Barclay, Matt Scott, Mark Bennett, Magnus Bradbury, Lewis Carmichael and Luke Crosbie are all out as it stands. Not all of those would have been with Scotland but when you are down to the bare bones any extra bodies would have been appreciated and had, for example, Bradbury been fit for Scotland we may well have had Jamie Ritchie available to the club.
Fraser Mackenzie is also injured and during the internationals would have been a likely choice as captain. He’s done it before quite successfully as I recall. We have lacked leadership in this period; captaincy doesn’t seem to sit well with Pyrgos.
Talking of leadership – the absence of a raft of heavily experienced players such as Watson, Gilchrist, McInally and Mata whilst they ply their trade with Scotland and Fiji respectively would be hard for any team to replace but Edinburgh’s squad is shallow. To ask callow youths such as Hodgson, Atkinson and Taylor to all come in at the same time and emulate their more celebrated teammates was always going to be a long shot.
Edinburgh have also suffered at the hands of some, to put it politely, average refereeing. By nature these things even themselves out but clear mistakes by refs in the games v Ospreys and Ulster have cost us points and therefore momentum. 8 games on the road without a win is definitely becoming a monkey on our back but if even one of those two games had finished differently the narrative changes.
Cockerill clearly has a distinct lack of faith in anyone other than Pyrgos at scrum half. Kennedy and Fowles have barely had any game time with Henry taking all the responsibility. Shiel hasn’t been given any kind of look in at all. Not good from a competition point of view and it clearly lets everyone know how we are going to play while also making a mockery of the decision to let Hidalgo-Clyne walk. Box kick anyone?
Some players are not hitting the heights of last year, chiefly among them, Duhan Van Der Merwe. To be fair to him the ball isn’t exactly being sent his way too often but the deficiencies in his game seem more obvious than before. He seems unable or unwilling to pass. He loves to bash it up but is losing the ball in contact too often and his tackling leaves a lot to be desired. We’ve also not seen much from Blair Kinghorn this season either.
Some new additions are not proving their worth yet. There has been little of note from Socino, albeit with limited game time and Hickey may just not be the 10 we are looking for as already mentioned.
To dovetail that last paragraph we have had some stand out performances from new boys. Pierre Schoeman has been a revelation and Luke Hamilton has proven his worth in a position that most of us probably thought was well covered. Matt Scott has also done well on his return to the team.
When we have been good we look dangerous and really robust – Montpellier away (loss notwithstanding), at home to Toulon and even the recent win against Scarlets with a weakened team. We have scored some wonderful tries both from forwards and backs, McInally v Montpellier and Tom Brown v Scarlets are good examples.
This recent period has given valuable big game experience to the likes of Hodgson. Hunter-Hill, Miller and Atkinson. Taylor and Baggott. They all look like decent prospects and the next time they are called on will be better for this.
We have some serious depth in the front row even in the midst of internationals and injuries. A front row of Schoeman, Ford and Ceccarelli with McCallum, Sutherland and Cherry on the bench is good by any standard. There was even a welcome return for Darryl Marfo in the loss to Munster,
Bill Mata has become a genuine world class talent and we will be lucky to keep him when his contract is up. His family seem settled within the large Fijian community in Edinburgh, as witnessed by recent video of the get together they all had at Dreghorn Barracks so hopefully that will count in our favour. We click when he plays – (Scarlets) and don’t when he doesn’t (Dragons).
We are still in the hunt in the league and after ten rounds of the competition we are 5th. Although this is disappointing there are still plenty of games to turn this around and third is not unachievable.
We are also still well in contention in the Heineken Cup with the next two weeks being crucial to our progress. Our Scotland internationals and Big Bill will be back for the double headers against Newcastle and then Glasgow so there is plenty to look forward to.
I’ll say one thing about Friday night in Cork. I’ve read on various social media platforms that Edinburgh are a disgrace for fielding such an understrength team and they were an embarrassment. Nothing could be further from the truth and I fully endorse Cockerill’s position on this.
I would rather the Scotland contingent got their rest now and be raring to go now for the busy and important period ahead. A trip to Munster is difficult even at the best of times so I feel he was well within his rights to manage the squad to hopefully get the best of them going forward. And it is exactly what Munster would do.
If there is any finger pointing to be done here, save it for the PRO14 and their scheduling – my thoughts on that will be coming soon…