THERE is always a delicate balance to be struck between learning the lessons of a dispiriting defeat and ensuring you do not dwell on it to your own detriment. It is one that Edinburgh know they must find as they prepare to resume their PRO14 campaign on Saturday with a demanding trip to Scarlets, one of their rivals in what is an increasingly tight battle for the two remaining play-off places in Conference B.
Last weekend’s Champions Cup loss to Munster was a frustrating one, a case of so near and yet so far for Richard Cockerill’s team. Had they won the quarter-final instead of losing by four points, they would have travelled to Llanelli with their morale at an all-time high. Having been beaten, they have to bear in mind what went wrong and how they can put it right in the coming games, without allowing that morale to be too badly affected by such reflections.
As Chris Dean explained, the need to strike the right balance was symbolised by how the head coach dealt with the debrief of the defeat by the Irish province. “We had our Munster review upstairs, then Cockers said ‘Scratch this, we’re going downstairs for a change of scenery for our Scarlets meeting’,” the centre said.
“Because in order to make the play-offs we need three wins, so it’s a huge few weeks for us as a team. That’s our focus for the next few weeks, just to get the wins. Every match is big now – there’s a lot riding on them.
“We need to approach [the Scarlets game] with fresh minds, get the bodies freshened up, but also take the learnings from last weekend into another big game this weekend. They will be raring to go as well with their Welsh internationalists back and looking to make the play-offs.”
Although the coach used that change of meeting venue to show to the team that in some respects they needed to put the Munster match behind them, Dean accepted that they also had to think carefully about it – not only the things that went wrong, but also more encouraging aspects of a game which for many in the squad was one of the biggest they had ever been involved in. “You’ve got to learn from it. A lot of us in our squad haven’t played a lot of Champions Cup so being in games of that seriousness, especially knock-out rugby for the first time for most of us, was a great experience. In those games it comes down to small margins and it’s probably small margins that’s cost us the game.
“We were in control for the most part, so for us it’s about learning that you need 100 per cent concentration throughout every minute of the game, so when we’re in that position again we can learn from it and go one better. It’s almost more frustrating because I think we really did dominate the game. We nearly did out-Munster Munster in our tactics but to come up short with a few silly errors is really frustrating, especially at home, it was there for the taking. In order to be a great team you have to go through a few pains to get them right down the line.”
Given that Dean scored Edinburgh’s only try in the 17-13 loss, it is perhaps particularly easy for him to look back on the game in a positive fashion, even if the failure to build on that score remains a source of frustration. “It was in my head that it was a turning point for us. We had a lot of pressure on them early in the game and finally in that phase we found a way to get over the line and I thought it felt like it was a turning point to keep putting the pressure on. We did for the most part, apart from the few phases that led up to their try and our small turn-off in concentration. It was pretty frustrating, but an enjoyable experience.
“The bigger games are hugely exciting to play in. That home support was the biggest I’ve played in as an Edinburgh player and it was really exciting personally and as a team we really enjoyed it but ultimately we’d have loved to have got the win in front of that support.”