Edinburgh v Ulster reaction: ‘We got what we deserved’ – Richard Cockerill

Beaten head coach laments his Edinburgh team's lack of compsure when surrendering a 19-7 lead in biggest game of the season

Darcy Graham shows what he felt about Edinburgh's loss last night. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Darcy Graham shows what he felt about Edinburgh's loss last night. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

EDINBURGH got exactly what they deserved out of last night’s Guinness PRO14 semi-final clash against Ulster, according to head coach Richard Cockerill. His team had a commanding 19-7 lead with 20 minutes to go, but then found themselves incapable of keeping control of the match and ended up slumping to a painful 19-22 defeat.
 
The decisive points came via a brilliant, long-range Iain Madigan penalty, after Edinburgh’s replacement hooker Mike Willemse was adjudged to have committed a deliberate knock-on, but the real damage had been done before that through the home team’s inability to clear their lines, to hold onto the ball in contact, and to – generally – play the percentages.
 
“I think we lost the penalty count 14-9, plus we didn’t exit properly, we kicked poorly and gave them opportunities to carry back at us, and we were ill-disciplined at the tackle by not rolling away,” said Cockerill. “We invited them into our own half and we got what we deserved and they got what they deserved. We can solve all those things. In these games it is the little things that make the difference and some of our players clearly don’t understand what that looks like.


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“I’ve no complaints about the [late] penalty – none at all,” he added. “I am disappointed that when we are 19-7 up, we don’t control the game like we know we can control the game. Credit to them but that was all of our own making. We should have made better decisions and we should have executed better and it just wasn’t good enough from us.”
 
This was the fourth knock-out match on the bounce that Edinburgh have lost since Cockerill’s arrival at the club in the summer of 2017, and probably the most painful yet because on paper they looked the better team and there was a feeling pre-match that they have finally got over the jitters which have haunted them so often in the past.
 
It is not back to the drawing-board after this set-back, but the reversal should give several senior players pause for reflection.
 
“We’ve got international players who will go and play Test matches for Scotland and they need to know better,” said Cockerill. “We’ve had enough opportunities to learn and tonight we had to deliver, and we didn’t. It’s not good enough.

“They are good players and they played really good rugby to get into a winning position, but we have to stay engaged the whole time. We score then we don’t collect the kick-off and we end up getting penalised, and they score from the line-out. We need to have a good hard look at ourselves because it is a continual problem.
 
“We just don’t need to be forcing a game that doesn’t need to be chased. Chris Dean spoons the ball down the field and they end up scoring from the next play. We have to make good decisions there – let’s have a scrum because we were on top in that area. That’s just an example and there was lots of examples of poor decision-making.”
 
The Edinburgh squad will now have a few days off to lick their wounds, but Cockerill has warned them that they will be back at training by the middle of next week, when preparation will start in earnest for a shot at partial redemption against Bordeaux-Begles in the quarter-final of the European Challenge Cup quarter-finals on 19th September.
 
“That’s no consolation because we should be taking the opportunity here,” insisted Cockerill, who was in no mood to downplay the magnitude of the set-back. “I’m not going to make any excuses for myself because it is my fault, it starts with me, and the players are going to be held accountable next week.
 
“We’re not going to change 45 players, they’ll only change the coach, we just have to dust ourselves off – we’ve got a couple of weeks prep to go to Bordeaux so we just need to get better with the players we’ve got.”
 
Meanwhile, opposite number Dan McFarland praised match-winner Ian Madigan who came off the bench in the final minutes and slotted the decisive long-range penalty.
 
“That was big-time, he is a big-time player,” said the former Scotland assistant coach. “We had plenty of opportunities to create pressure in the first half but it didn’t quite work, then we made some adjustments in the second half and it paid off.
 
“Nobody is going to give us a chance against Leinster, but we’ll prepare properly, we’ll have a game-plan we think can work and we’ll go and give it our best shot.”


Edinburgh v Ulster: heartbreak for hosts after second half slump

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David Barnes
About David Barnes 1935 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

5 Comments

  1. The collapse appeared to me to be down to a combination of indiscipline and lack of leadership. The likes of Gilchrist and McInally don’t appear capable of having an influence on their troops when needed. The team really lacks someone with the commandof a Sexton, Farrell or, dare I say it, Laidlaw.

  2. i think in this instance failure would be not to qualify for semi finals knock out rugby as neither the welsh nor south african teams did, with regards to scotland almost beating the all blacks in 2017 was taken as could’ve would’ve should’ve, or even looking to earlier this year away to ireland, instead of a game that was reported as a poor performance it was reported as a “bless them didn’t wee scotland try hard” way of looking at things, which i totally agree with you on that. i think the view of edinburgh being “weak willed failures” is absolutely incorrect and whilst i respect your opinion couldnt disagree more.

  3. seems to be the problem of “nearly men” that has cursed Scottish rugby for the past decade creeping back again, looking back to the England game at twickenham last year a 31 point response and probably one of the best Scottish performances of the professional era yet couldn’t quite convert the win. going forward it has to be addressed, too many occasions of this Glasgow, Edinburgh and Scotland. that being said, very easy to say being a professional arm chair pundit!

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    • Not sure exactly when Scotland or Edinburgh have been nearly men other than Edinburgh’s diddy cup failure against Gloucester. Getting knocked out in semi-finals is hardly nearly-men. It indicates failure and not much more. It doesn’t help that the Pro14 is no more than an Irish championship aimed at improving their international standing, which from that point of view is quite successful.
      As for Edinburgh and their coach, they’re weak willed failures. Being dull and nuggetty might scrape you through a few pool games, but it’s not going to win you much. Anyway the diddy cup calls – onwards and upwards.

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