NOBODY who witnessed – endured – this afternoon’s 1872 Cup clash between Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors will argue that it deserves any sort of praise as a sporting spectacle, but both head coaches claimed afterwards that they saw reasons for encouragement in what transpired during a bitterly cold afternoon at Murrayfield.
As the man in charge of the victorious side, Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill was naturally the more effusive of the pair.
“It was a little bit turgid wasn’t it? The conditions were good but it was wet and greasy on the field and that affected both sides – but these games are for winning, ultimately, and that is the most important thing,” he shrugged.
“I thought we were positive with the ball, positive with our mind-set, and if you are positive and keep having a crack then you end up with a win.
“It was tough and gritty from both sides and I thought they played really well,” he added. “But our set-piece was very good – certainly scrummage-wise – we battled hard – and we just about deserved the victory. I am happy with the points and we move on to next Friday now.
“We will come in on Monday and there is a lot for us to look at because we can play a lot better. We have to do work on the line-out as they were better than us there. But winning is a good habit to get into.”
Cockerill defended the on-field decision to go hunting for seven points by opting for scrums and line-outs, instead of taking the three points on offer through kickable penalties, during a long period of the first half when Edinburgh were camped deep in Glasgow’s territory.
There was a growing danger that this approach was going to backfire on the home side as we passed the hour mark with still no scoring, before Jaco van der Walt finally broke the deadlock with 15 minutes to go through a long-range shot at goal.
“I thought the boys were brave to keep going for the corners and taking the scrums,” insisted the coach. “I felt we did not get the reward that we deserved and they were lucky not to have a bloke in the bin. They were penalised seven times at scrum without recourse.
“To say our attack was blunt is unfair because we had them under pressure. Across the board, our front-row was good; and Ben Toolis had not trained all week [because of a foot injury] but turned up and played a full 80.”
Meanwhile, Danny Wilson argued that this was a big step forward for his team compared to their last two outings (a 22-23 loss at home to the Dragons on 5th December and a 42-0 drubbing by Exeter Chiefs a week later), and he pointed out that his side have had to battle through an unprecedented level of disruption during the last three weeks due to a Covid exposure in the camp.
“We wanted to come here and play – fire some shots – and I thought we did that,” he said. “We played a better brand of rugby than we had in the last two games and we certainly tested Edinburgh.
“We got some dominance at the line-out and got dominated in the scrums, so those two things probably evened themselves out.
“But tight games come down to tight situations and we came out on the wrong side of a couple of those situations, including – again – a lack of discipline. Soft penalties led to us being camped in the wrong areas of the pitch.
“We certainly gave them a few penalties from scrums but it was more the penalties away from the scrum that were the frustration for me. We had 12 outside the scrum and another four in it, which gave them a foothold.”
One of the big plus points for Wilson was his team’s belligerence in defence, which meant that Edinburgh did not get over their line until the final 10 minutes – and only then after a loose pass from Brandon Thomson fired into Sam Johnson’s shoulder ended up being hacked on by van der Walt for a Magnus Bradbury try.
“There were some really good sets of defence, especially when we were camped on our own line and turned them over a few times,” said Wilson. “Ultimately, it’s a loss, even if we picked up a losing bonus point away from home, which is something.
“We need to turn in a better performance this week into an even better performance next week which will hopefully give us the right result at Scotstoun.”
Wilson added that he is hopeful of having some of the players missing from this game due to Covid back for next Friday’s return leg.
“They have to go 14 days from their last symptoms and then have a series of cardiovascular checks before they are allowed to train and play,” he said. “One or two might still be missing come Friday, but one, maybe two will be back. Hopefully that will help in certain situations where we struggled tonight.”