AS Edinburgh found out to their cost last season, every league point is a prisoner in the race for Guinness PRO14 play-off places and European Champions Cup qualification spots.
The capital outfit finished just six points shy of third placed Benetton in Conference B last time out, which meant a season in which the team had shown real progress with some outstanding performances and results ultimately ended in failure. Just one more win and a couple of bonus points would have made all the difference.
With that in mind, last Saturday’s agonising – and avoidable – 18-16 loss away to Benetton cannot simply be shrugged off as a minor hiccup after a fairly positive start to the 2019-20 campaign. However, full-back Blair Kinghorn has insisted that it is not a disastrous set-back so long as the team learn from what went wrong at the Stadio Monigo.
“I’d say you can’t afford to lose more than one or two of those types of games,” said the 22-year-old. “Every game is crucial because every team in our conference has the ability to beat each other. If you’re looking to be in the top spots then matches like that are very big games.
“The weather was horrific, so it was about who was going to blink first,” he added. “In terms of the penalty counts, we only gave away eight, but some were in crucial moments including myself – I gave one when we were in an attacking position in the 70th minute – and small things like that can flip a game on its head.
Tasting the big time
Edinburgh competed in Europe last season for the first time in five years, and they had some great days in which they claimed some significant scalps, before ultimately coming up short in a home quarter-final showdown against a vastly more experienced Munster.
However, they will have to play in the second tier Challenge Cup this year, a competition which has grown in credibility in recent seasons but still falls some way short of its senior sibling in terms of standard and prestige. Having had a taste of the big time, Kinghorn and his team-mates are determined to get back there as quickly as possible.
“The Challenge Cup is a competition we’ll be looking to do really well in, it’s another way to get back into the top flight of European rugby if we win it, so that will be in the forefront of our minds,” he said.
“You want to be playing in those big games – away to Toulon or Montpellier like last year – they were massive for us and the players loved the experience, so we’re hungry to get back into that top tier.”
Edinburgh’s European campaign gets under way a week on Friday with a rip to Agen, but before that there is the small matter of the Dragons at Murrayfield this Friday. The PRO14 remains the team’s most likely route back into the Champions Cup, and they know they must get the show back on the road after last weekend’s wrong turning.
‘They [the Dragons] beat Glasgow a couple of weeks ago and they’re a good team,” acknowledged Kinghorn. “We need to stick to our guns, I’m hoping it will be dry, but we need to stick to our process and we know if we play the rugby we want to play, like we did against Cardiff away and Scarlets at home, we’ll win.”
- Blair Kinghorn was speaking to help promote main club sponsor Principal & Prosper’s ‘Big Ticket Giveaway’ during a training session for pupil’s Leith Academy.