Edinburgh’s European adventure has come to an end for this year after a close defeat to Munster on Saturday. It’s safe to say there were a few talking points from this game.
First up then and probably the one that’s divided opinion not only amongst Edinburgh supporters but the wider audience in general: were Edinburgh too slow at the breakdown? And if that’s the case, why was that and whose fault was it?
I’ve no doubt that Edinburgh play the game at the breakdown exactly how Richard Cockerill wants them to. The box kicks are a definable tactic. As is the fact that Edinburgh do not compete in the air for them. Be there when the ball comes down. Get a tackle in and the defending team will kick it clear giving Edinburgh an attacking lineout or cough up the ball for turnover or penalty. Given that our lineout is pretty good that’s a reasonable way to approach this. It worked to perfection in the 50th minute of this match and led to the penalty that gave Edinburgh the lead at that point. It’s not the sexy, run the ball from underneath your own posts rugby that we all find exciting and horrifying in equal measure but it’s percentage rugby and makes sense to me.
The downside is that if Henry Pyrgos doesn’t get the box kick quite right in terms of distance it can become a decent broken field attack for the opposition. This wasn’t the case on Saturday as Munster’s two tries were just about the only time they made it into Edinburgh’s 22 in the whole match.
Why indeed should we rush it from the base? Take your time – get it right. In attack I think it’s hard to find anyone who would say that slow ball from the base of a ruck is a good thing. Did it cost Edinburgh the game on Saturday? It’s hard to make that call specifically but that, allied to a lack of invention from our three-quarter line, probably makes it just too easy to defend.
The try that we did score was probably one of the few times that when in close proximity to the Munster try line we moved the ball quickly and to a back as opposed to a one-out pass to a forward.
What is clear though is that pointing the finger at Pyrgos is neither fair nor accurate as he is surely carrying out the tactics as dictated by the coaching staff.
Kicks to goal: Edinburgh had two penalties in the Munster half in the opening 5 minutes and chose to kick to the corner from both and got nothing from the subsequent attacks. In what was billed by almost everyone as a match that was going to be close, this, on the face of it, looks like a misstep. Cockerill said during an in- match interview that the “kickers weren’t confident” of making the kicks and in their defence both were about 7 metres in from the touchline so neither of them was a gimme. Perhaps this gives more of an insight into the state of mind of the kicker than his actual ability. It’s worth remembering that only Gilcho, Rambo (as a back row) and Ross Ford on the bench have played at this level of European competition before. Both of these kicks stemmed from the same attack so it’s also worth noting that if we had kicked the first one, then the second wouldn’t have happened.
In hindsight we maybe should have had tried to kick at least one of these penalties just to get on the scoreboard early.
Should there have been a yellow card for Andrew Conway’s challenge in the air on Darcy Graham? This one is debatable. This is what the laws say –
Penalty only – Fair challenge with wrong timing – no pulling down
Yellow card – Not a fair challenge, there is no contest and the player is pulled down landing on his back or side
In the case we have here it seems to me to fall (no pun intended) between these two instructions. He did pull him down and he did land on his back but the challenge was fair. On balance I think a penalty only was the correct decision.
Does this scenario sound familiar to anyone? Think back to Saracens vs Harlequins a week ago: Sarries are attacking on the Harlequins line and as they touch down for a probable try a scuffle has broken out between Danny Care and Liam Williams. Both are yellow carded by referee JP Doyle. Care for manhandling Williams off the ball and Williams for retaliating. The try is ruled out but the game restarts with a penalty to Saracens. One hundred percent spot on refereeing aided by the TMO to review what exactly happened. Contrast that with events leading up to Munster’s first try on Saturday.
In this game, Pyrgos gives away a penalty on the five-yard line for a delibearate knock on. He is then thrown to the ground WWE-style off the ball by Connor Murray. Earls take a quick tap and scores. Pascal Gauzerre had the opportunity to review the incident and chose not to. There is not much difference really; small margins in a game that finished with only 4 points in it.
Which leads us neatly onto Munster’s second try. The try itself was straightforward and well finished by Earls but the talking point surrounding it stems from the reversed penalty that led to it. It brings us back to that old chestnut: consistency. Van Der Walt is tackled late and that’s straightforward but in the aftermath of that Munster’s Tadgh Beirne can be seen prone on the Murrayfield turf. This time Gauzerre thinks it is worth reviewing and with the aid of the TMO correctly reverses the penalty when it can be seen that Pierre Schoeman shouldered him as he ran by, knocking him into his own man.
In the cold light it was daft by Schoeman and Beirne, a player I’ve previously admired, in behaviour more suited to the Hearts v Aberdeen match taking place nearby, made the most of his journey to ground. Whether it is cynical or professional probably depends on your allegiances but I find it a bit sad.
In the end, a lack of experience was what cost Edinburgh. Munster have been here 19 times. This was Edinburgh’s third time. In a four point game that counts for a lot to come so close. For the most part Edinburgh’s defence was stout and Munster had little in terms of possession and territory, but took advantage of the very few moments that they did get. It’s not a cause for despondency and the building blocks are there for the future.
Can anyone say when they saw the draw for this competition that they expected to be watching Edinburgh in a home quarter-final having lost only one group match en route?
It could be worse, we could have been on the end of a hiding.
Back to domestic business next week in the hope that we can find the resolve and performances to be in the mix again for next year’s Heineken Cup.
SRBlog Man of the Match – In yet another “prove me wrong” moment Darcy Graham had a great game at fullback. Brave, adventurous and positionally sound he further advanced his growing reputation. He topped the charts for metres gained and defenders beaten and didn’t deserve to be on the losing side.