IF you’re feeling just that little bit fatigued this morning, spare a thought for the Edinburgh squad. While most of us will be able to brush the cobwebs off gradually or simply carry on the celebrations, Richard Cockerill’s players will be back hard at it from eight o’clock.
The significant improvement they have made this season has come about largely as a result of hard work and a very determined attitude, and they are not about to alter the formula either because it is Christmas or because they have just beaten Glasgow Warriors. They have had their two days’ rest since that remarkable result at Murrayfield, and that is enough: now their attention turns to Saturday’s second leg of the 1872 Cup at Scotstoun, and a game in which they expect their opponents to be desperate to reassert themselves.
Chris Dean, who came off the bench and scored the winning try in that 18-17 victory three days ago, had as much reason as any Edinburgh player to celebrate at the end of the game. But he knows that, no matter how good he and his team-mates feel about that result, any residual self-satisfaction will be brought to an end this morning by Cockerill.
“We’ll come in with a spring in our step, but Cockers will bring us back down to earth and give us a reality check,” the centre said. “We have a big game on the 30th, because Glasgow will come out firing, we all know that.
“He runs a hard regime. Our standards are up there now: there’s no slacking allowed. We’ve all bought into it. That is where the backbone is growing. We’re not the finished article, but we’ll keep working as hard as we can.
“There is a collective belief we can really do it. Because we train so hard during the week we know it is there for match day. We have been in situations now when we have overcome the difficulties upon us like in this game. We are starting to build something.”
The major difficulty, of course, was caused by Simon Berghan’s sending-off after five minutes for putting a boot on Fraser Brown as the Warriors hooker lay at the bottom of a ruck. By rights, that dismissal plus the ability that Glasgow have to exploit space should have guaranteed an away win, but instead Edinburgh first did a great job in defence, and then steadily grew in confidence, as Dean noticed from the bench.
“It’s not a perfect situation to lose a man to a red card five minutes into a game. Credit to the guys who were on the field at the time and for most of the game: they stuck it out, gritted themselves, and put in a fantastic performance well above everybody’s expectations.
“When Glasgow scored that second try and we went back and scored against them the belief was there. From the bench running on you need that belief. If you come on half-hearted that is when things go wrong. Credit to everybody who got on the field and got the job done.”
It was Dean who got the job done in the end, during a surreal moment in which several players had stopped, appearing to think that the referee had halted play. But he had not, so the Edinburgh centre just carried on what he was doing, peeling off the back of a maul and running the last few metres to the try line.
“There was a bit of ambiguity, actually. I was looking at [Warriors winger] Lee Jones when the advantage was given and he almost switched off, and then I thought to myself, ‘I’ll go for it anyway. I can see the line.’ Lo and behold we got it.
“I didn’t know I had scored myself. I looked at the ref running over to give it and we were all pretty excited we had done it. It had been a long time since I’d been at the back of a ruck.
“I had joined the maul and Neil Cochrane had it at the time. He was saying, ‘take it, take it, and I took it. I’d been eyeing up an opportunity to go before but advantage was given and luckily they switched off and made it easier.
“That game shows we have grown as a club and created a character about us. Cockers said at half-time, he didn’t really care about the result and just wanted to see the backbone we have created. He just wanted to see how strong that character and backbone was that we’d been building on for the last 12 to 15 weeks and we did that with that performance and win.”
Edinburgh reacted in exemplary fashion to going a man down, but at the time the loss of Berghan felt like a major blow – perhaps even a mortal one. The tighthead prop himself clearly felt that way, according to Dean.
“He was pretty upset with himself, but that’s what you learn from and build on. We were never going to hold that against him regardless of what the score would have been.
“We’re a team, and things like that happen. I like to think if we were on the other side of that score we would not have looked on that as an excuse.”