EDINBURGH’s victory over Montpellier has come at a price, with Hamish Watson now likely to miss at least part of the Six Nations Championship after apparently breaking a bone in his hand.
The open-side flanker had to be substituted in the first half of his team’s 19-10 win at Murrayfield, and coach Richard Cockerill explained later that, while it was too early to make a definite prognosis, things did not look too good with the first game against Italy just a fortnight away.
“We think at the moment it’s a broken bone,” the head coach said. “We’ll have to confirm it, but that’s what it looks like, which is disappointing to say the least.”
That bad news apart, the head coach was naturally ecstatic after a performance which, while falling some way short of perfection, highlighted just how much they have toughened up since he took over at the start of last season. “I’m delighted we’ve qualified and [the players] deserve the credit they’re due. It’s a big step forward for us as a club.
“We’re still developing, trying to catch the big boys. It was a big win for us to do it last week away, and to come here and beat that side that Montpellier picked is very pleasing.
“We went behind and you could see their physicality coming into the game, but we managed to stay in the battle and managed to get a foothold back in the game. When we do that we have players who can cause some issues. I thought our set piece was unbelievable tonight, the lineout drive that led to the try [by Darcy Graham] was against a big old Montpellier pack, and they were in trouble.”
The fact that Edinburgh have topped their pool also means that Glasgow are through as one of the three best runners-up – a fact that Cockerill could not resist making a wisecrack about. “There’s always one downside to the evening, isn’t there? Look, I enjoy the rivalry and the rivalry is going to get stronger and better.
“It’s great for Scottish rugby. We’ve got two teams in the quarter-finals, there’s a lot of good things happening in the Scottish game. So let’s enjoy it. Saracens will be under pressure now because Glasgow can go there and there’s no pressure on them, they can go and play. That will suit them and good luck to them.”
After beating Montpellier, Toulon and Newcastle to top their Champions Cup pool, Edinburgh are now likely to be at home against either Munster or Exeter in the quarter-finals in the last weekend of March. “We’ll take on anybody,” try-scorer Graham said. “I don’t know who we’ve got, but we’ll take on anybody.
“We’re chuffed to bits. The boys have worked hard. It’s been quite a difficult week. We’ve not been able to get as much training in with the short turnaround” – this game just six days after the win in Toulon – “but it shows we can do it.”
With his forwards edging closer to the Montpellier goal line as the referee played penalty advantage, Graham had to bide his time for the score before eventually being fed a pass in the right corner. “It was just a case of being patient,” he continued. “The forwards did great work down there, just picking and going. It sucked the boys in to make the hole for me and it was an easy try in the end.”
An easy try, but not an easy game at all, and with almost 20 minutes still to play at that point, Graham and his team-mates had a lot of hard work in front of them before being sure of the win. “They’re a quality side, so you can never take the foot off, because they’ll hurt you if you do. They were camped down and just about there. They just about scored, but boys put their bodies on the line for the whole 80 minutes, which was awesome.”