JOB DONE. With the minimum fuss and no significant injuries to report, Edinburgh took a significant step closer to the last eight of the Challenge Cup with a 12-try [78-0] demolition of Russian minnows Krasny Yar on Friday night.
Stade Francais’ bonus-point 20-26 victory at London Irish yesterday afternoon means that it is not a mathematical certainty yet, but all the Edinburgh team need to do now in order to progress to the quarter-finals is avoid compete capitulation in their final two pool matches against the Frenchmen
Basically, Richard Cockerill’s team can turn their attention to the 1872 Cup (and all the buzz and bragging rights wrapped up in that festive double-header) with a real sense of momentum pushing them onwards.
Their opponents next week, meanwhile, are coming off the back of two painful defeats. Of course, the Warriors have been competing in the far tougher Champions Cup this last fortnight, but sports psychology does not always to conform to logic – and, in this instance, it doesn’t really matter who the opposition is: a victory trumps a defeat.
“It was hard in a different way tonight: it was about how you keep your concentration for the full 80 minutes,” said Edinburgh captain Fraser McKenzie, clearly determined to ensure that his side’s achievement on Friday was not dismissed as a hollow victory against a gaggle of no-hopers.
“How do you get back on track when you’re scoring so often? We focused in sticking to our systems because games like that become very unstructured, and it can all of a sudden turn to disarray. But we stuck to our task tonight.”
“We controlled the ball and controlled the game, and there were zero points against, which was one of our aims.”
McKenzie makes a valid point here. It was not so much about Edinburgh winning – it was about the fact that they won so well. This was perhaps not a polished all-round performance, but the home team were always in control. There was a glassy-eyed ruthlessness about them
It certainly is change from the exasperating Edinburgh we have had to endure in recent seasons – when one step forward and two steps back was such a familiar pattern that you could have choreographed a line dance in tribute to the team’s unfaltering commitment to making life easy for the opposition.
“We do not drop our standards no matter who we play,” insisted McKenzie, stressing that this is indeed a very different era. “We can’t affect who they put on the field, we can only play against the opposition who turn up. But it was a big occasion for them, playing at Murrayfield. They’re a big old bunch who can cause you problems if you allow them to get front foot ball, but we stuck to our task. Now our concentration switches to Glasgow.”
“We fully respect the Warriors, their record in the league speaks for itself, but that’s a good task for us – we’re looking forward to that,” he continued. “The 1872 Cup always produces good games, there’s always a good rivalry there so everyone at Edinburgh is looking forward to it.”
“There would be nothing sweeter than being the team which stopped Glasgow’s record run [in the league]. They’ll know that as well.”
So, why should we believe that this new Edinburgh dawn is any more substantial than the previous ones we have been let down by?
The key, according to McKenzie, is that under head coach Cockerill this current Edinburgh squad no longer has a comfort blanket under which they can hide when the going gets tough.
“We don’t know who’s going to start whereas in years gone by it was pretty much the same team week-in and week-out – so training this week will be pretty full-on,” McKenzie explained.
“We’re beginning to click. We’ve set goals and stuck to them. We’re hard on ourselves and regardless of who plays those standards are kept high. If I’m not playing well enough I don’t play; if you’re captain you’re not an automatic starter, and I think that’s what’s good about Cockers – he drives standards.”