Heineken Cup Quarter Finals: Edinburgh 13-17 Munster

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.

Edinburgh Rugby vs Munster in the European Rugby Champions Cup Quarter Final – pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

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.

Darcy Graham takes evasive action – pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

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.


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Edinburgh supporter and former tighthead whose clubs include Edinburgh Wanderers, Corstorphine, Lothian & Borders Police and The Co-optimists. I’m a much better player now than I ever was when I actually took to the field.
Follow Sandy on twitter @theburghwatch

15 comments on “Heineken Cup Quarter Finals: Edinburgh 13-17 Munster

  1. Saltire62 on

    Was at Murrayfield on Saturday and left feeling pretty disappointed with the outcome of a game we pretty much bossed in terms of territory and possession. You have to say the Munster defence was outstanding and we just couldn’t break them down even with a man advantage. Both teams gave their all and I don’t really think we deserved to lose but Munster are experts at closing out these tight matches!
    I don’t think we did much wrong to be fair and the boys can be proud of their efforts in a very tight game which could have gone either way. I just think we need to trust our backs a bit more as we looked a bit one dimensional at times. I have to say that I thought Darcy Graham was simply outstanding (again) and was worth the ticket price on his own!
    Final word has to go to the Munster support – their team must have thought they were running out for a home match and it felt like at least half the crowd if not more were Irish. It was a decent crowd -just a pity there wasn’t more folk there to support the home team.

    • 1.8T on

      I would agree with that. Those 3 are nailed on. I quite like Maitland at 15, I thought he had an excellent game there against England. He’s obviously not as visible in attack as Hogg but a lot of his positioning and link play was superb he can be a bit flakey though and drift in and out of games. He would be my consideration for the bench too if someone else sticks their hand up in a big way. Kinghorn failed to shine at 15 but for me has to go on the plane, he’s the future and can also play all over the backline. Who else do you take? Seymour has been short of form for some time now but we know what he can do when he gets some, does he come based on history?

      With regards to the Edinburgh game, I only caught half an hour or so of it. Think the articles very fair, but Pyrgos can be slow anyway, if uncontested box kicks are a tactic they have to be accurate and that’s all him and execution. Its indicative of the Scottish game, we played all the rugby but the other team found a way to win. Their defence was rock solid, and that’s how Munster play the game, Wales-esque you could say. Not the most entertaining but you can’t argue with their results.

  2. Busy Little Bee on

    Good and sensible article Sandy, agree on almost all points. I’m not a fan of Pyrgos, never have been, but he’s been told to play that way. Keep it tight and in the forwards, especially as the most dangerous runner in the backs Kinghorn was out. Makes sense. The moaners should remember that Cockerill and his staff have done a superb job and know a lot more about the game and players than they do.

    It’d be a wretch to lose Ritchie/Bradbury but if that meant getting G.Horne in a swap then do it for the good of everybody.

    Not taking those shots at goal is straight-up nonsense, the test team are guilty of it too. VDW is a top goalkicker, I don’t buy that he didn’t fancy them. The kick at goal is almost always the correct percentage okay. Are there not analysts at the club focused on this?

    • Alanyst on

      In defence of not kicking the points second penalty , it seems a common tactic now to attempt to draw a card for repeated offences, with the added bonus of maybe scoring.

      In hinsight Munster too well organised for this to work.

    • 1.8T on

      Think I commented on this in the 6N, the game in general seems to have less kicks at goal. No stats to back that up but I just get the feeling teams kick to the corner a lot more now when the game’s still tight.

      Think Alanyst makes a good point, trying to milk a penalty / card seems to be more of a thing now as well. Rolling mauls are very hard to legally defend so a punt to the 5m line followed by lineout and shove is a good tactic. Kicking a penalty just gives possession and territory back to the opposition, one error and they can score right back.

  3. Mac Baldwin on

    When battering away from close quarters and getting nowhere why not put it wide where Graham and Hoyland were in lots of space? It never happened.

    • Stu2 on

      Indeed – Cockerill has to stop thinking Embra are Leicester.

      It was clearly tactical – but the players have enough experience to play the game as they see it – too often McInally makes poor leadership decisions.

      • Rory Baldwin on

        I think Rambo has done an admirable job filling in but he plays at his best when not skipper too. Fully expect Barcs will take this over next season and possibly during the RWC too where having him skipper allows you to pick Horne or Price at 9 (although saying that, of the three captains Rambo is closest to a guaranteed starter).

      • Stu2 on

        Agreed, it wasn’t a massive criticism of his leadership – but I do think it was a factor on Sat.

        It was obvious to fans at half-time that Embra would be much better placed if they opened up in the second half – I bet Cockerill told them to keep bashing away.

      • The Feral Goat on

        As per report McInally asked the kicker (presume VDW) if he fancied the kick at goal early on which he didn’t so he is then stuck going for the corner without a decision to be made. I guess we don’t know how often this scenario occurs each match limiting the options available to the captain. VDWs place kicking is at a pretty high % this season if he and the coaches know his range then perhaps we are not taking on the 50-50 kick attempts and backing the lineout and pack, both of which have been pretty effective for us, as the lower risk option.

  4. Glarugby on

    Just watched this. A few observations:

    1- what a brutal game of rugby – test match intensity for the 80+ minutes
    2-experience cost Edinburgh – Munster showing all their experience to close out the match
    3- darcy graham – just wow, a Scottish star in the making
    4- key decisions went against Edinburgh. The first try was a shocker. Defender suplexed. Ref should have checked.
    5-divers should be taken off for the ‘serious’ injury they sustain. That player should be ashamed of his blatant cheating – though I missed it in normal time
    6- the last 2 mins – Edinburgh played some great rugby – so impressed till the knock on

    Lessons to be learned but nothing to be ashamed off. Superb game of rugby

    • SlowWalk90 on

      On the diving issue… I totally agree but I think the horse is already out the barn. Ireland and Wales have been milking it for years and have got good at knowing when to stay on the ground for maximum effect. It’s been going on for ages so there’s no point expecting that the authorities are going to do anything about it.

      The only time I remember any player get reprimanded for being a diver on the field was Nigel Owens calling out Hoggy in the last World Cup. It wasn’t even a dive and Hogg looked mortified when it happened. I think it had an effect on him because if he’d stayed on the ground in last minute against Australia we’d have been in a World Cup Semi Final. He also should have stayed down when properly injured by O’Mahony this year and Itoje 2 years ago also.

      I hate it to say it, but if it’s the last throw of the dice and someone from the opposition gives you an opening like the stupidity of Schoemann did…. I’d want Scottish players to be doing the same thing everyone else seems happy to do.

    • Merlot on

      Absolutely agree with all your points Glarugby.
      Superb game, although would have enjoyed it more if Edinburgh had won – they deserved to.
      I have no problem with the penalty reversal against Schoeman. It was stupid and although Beirne will be a little bit ashamed of his theatrics, Schoeman will be more red-faced, as it cost his team the win.
      I do, however, have a problem with the inconsistency. If the ref and TMO can go back and look at that, why did they not look at Connor Murray throwing Pyrgos to the floor – after the whistle has gone and blatantly taking out a potential defender? It was obvious on TV – live. Much more obvious than the Schoeman shove. Maybe Henry should have stayed on the floor after being upended? It sickens me but I’d rather have the moral high ground than stoop to chav-ball antics.

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