MIKE BLAIR says he can take no credit whatsoever for Edinburgh’s forceful start to the second half of yesterday’s 1872 Cup clash against Glasgow Warriors at Murrayfield. He reckons his players deserve the credit for taking ownership of the situation with a constructive half-time discussion.
Despite leading 13-6 at half-time, the capital side had struggled to impose themselves during the first 40-minutes and the game was very much in the balance. But they fired out the blocks after the break to score the game’s decisive try through No 8 Magnus Bradbury, and didn’t look back.
“I said to Calum MacRae [Edinburgh’s defence coach] as we walked up to the technical box for the second half: ‘That’s the worst half-time speech that I’ve given’,” revealed Blair after the game. “So, it shows that it had absolutely nothing to do with what happened in the second half because we came out and were excellent.
“The players started taking more responsibility in the half-time talk, which is something I’ve really tried to push. I want them running things.
“When I went in, they were already starting to problem-solve and talk about what was important in the second half. Everyone spoke. It wasn’t a rammy, but it wasn’t just one or two people talking.
“These games are difficult, they’re so often nip and tuck, but they’re also about momentum, and I felt that we stole momentum at the start of the second half,” he added.
While his team struggled to find their stride during the first half, Blair was pleased with the grit his team showed. “They had a lot of possession and pressure on us for the first 10 minutes or so and we defended really well and got the first points on the board,” he reasoned.
“It was a little bit of a contrast to the Scotstoun game [against Glasgow in March], where they had a couple of turnover opportunities that they took. We probably created a couple more tonight through our defensive pressure or errors from them, and we were able to get some points on the back of that. We were pretty clinical with our opportunities as well.”
Last night’s victory means Edinburgh will head to Cape Town in a fortnight’s time to take on the DHL Stormers in the United Rugby Championship’s play-off quarter-finals.
“What a great tournament – playing a quarter-final in Cape Town against a really strong team – and it’s going to be a brilliant challenge for us,” concluded Blair.
Meanwhile, opposite number Danny Wilson struggled to shed any light on why so many of his senior players failed to rise to the occasion, and in fact shot themselves in the collective foot with some woeful indiscipline and a general lack of composure.
“It was a disappointing result and performance,” he acknowledged. “The numbers that really stood out were our penalty count and our turnover rate. Especially the types of penalty we gave away, that was really unlike us. It’s an area we’ve improved a lot this season, but that went back the other way in this match. It was a derby and our discipline was poor.”
Wilson chose his words carefully when asked about the yellow-carding of veteran Rob Harley for slapping the ball out of Henry Pyrgos‘ hands as the scrum-half attempted to move the ball away from a base of a ruck, right under the nose of referee Andrew Brace, and having already been warned about his conduct.
“It’s hard to be too critical of a guy I’ve got huge respect for and who has done a brilliant job over a long period for this club. It was probably just a rush of blood,” he said.
“When we did create some speed of ball and get in behind, we failed to execute,” he continued. “Our turnover rate was too high. It was just inaccuracy at times.
“We also missed a few tackles just after half-time and gave a few penalties away on the bounce. They scored at a crucial time just after half-time, which gave them a cushion.
“Although results haven’t always gone our way away from home, some of our performances have been good. But tonight wasn’t one of our better ones.”
This defeat means Glasgow now face a near impossible mission to Dublin to take on Leinster – winners of the last four titles – in the URC quarter-finals in two weekends’ time.
“We’ve been tested in a number of massive away games recently. There’s been periods in games, like Lyon away, where we had a good lead. We need to get to that level of rugby again,” suggested Wilson, unconvincingly.
“I look at our season as a whole, for about 80 percent of it we were around the top four in the league, had some massive wins and played some good rugby. Where we’ve fallen away is the tail end of the year. Five away games on the bounce has taken its toll.
“We haven’t won enough games on the road. That’s the story of our season. We’ve been excellent at home, but inconsistent on the road.
“We will go to Leinster as underdogs. We’ve got to use that, and go there and have a crack. We’ll go there and try and fire a few shots.”