THE Edinburgh selection meeting might take a little longer this week after several of the wider squad members staked a claim with strong performances in Friday’s bonus point win over Agen in the European Challenge Cup. Among them was inside centre George Taylor, whose effort earned him the tournament sponsor’s man-of-the-match award.
And it was a well-deserved accolade for the 22-year-old Borderer. His contribution included two of Edinburgh’s four tries and a big shift in defence as the French outfit mounted a second half effort to get back into the game. Taylor is hoping that the performance of what had looked at first glance to be a weakened side means that several more names will be up for debate this week.
Of the win which yielded five points – a tidy haul from an away tie, regardless of the quality of opposition – Taylor said: “It was my first European tie. Coach Cockers wanted to flip the squad around and maybe give some of the younger boys an opportunity.
“The boys were really up for the game. When we knew the conditions weren’t great, I thought it might have been more of a kicking game and more of a forward carrying game, but it dried up towards the end. We have a good back line and a solid forward platform that we could work from and we were really pleased that as when the conditions got better towards the end we could play the shape of game we wanted.”
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The experienced men in the squad had a key role to play and Grant Gilchrist in particular showed his leadership skills. That, says Taylor, was an important element in the collective effort.
“Obviously there’s leaders throughout that team that keep the individuals in check. It can get difficult, especially when Agen got three points and they got that try in the second half. We did keep boys in check and we kept our structure. All throughout the week, boys knew where they were playing. They knew their role and when we were all on the same page we really clicked.”
Edinburgh had secured three tries in 11 first half minutes and looked as if they would win at a canter. The second half proved to be less straightforward, with Agen battling back into the game and the elusive fourth try not coming until injury time.
For Taylor, those two factors were further evidence of a well-drilled side. And their composure paid off when Agen looked to add a second try, having found a way through the Edinburgh defence with slick handling only for the Scots to break out of defence.
“The chat under the sticks was just to keep our cool, return to our structure because obviously it works. After that, a great defensive set on our five metre line, then we chased 90 metres up the field, that’s when the boys had more belief that they could go and get them,” Taylor recalled.
Securing a fourth try became a race against time, and with the clock already showing 80 minutes played, it was only through a series of penalties that Edinburgh were able to wear down the home defence then crash over for Cammy Fenton to score.
“It was difficult, but there were no individual heroes trying to get the fourth try themselves,” said Taylor. “The pack stuck together and we wanted nothing less than to come away with a bonus point and that’s what the boys did.”
Taylor, who was making his first European appearance, has already made progress this season. And with competition for a centre berth intense, he knows he must continue to perform well.
“Last year was a lot more difficult,” he said. “This year, Matt Scott helps me along a lot. I had a meeting with Cockers about my position. He trusted me at 12 when Matt’s ankle wasn’t quite right and he’s now got more faith in me. For me, it’s just backing up these performances week after week and trying to keep pushing the likes of Chris Dean and Matt at 12, but also James Johnstone and Mark Bennett [at 13]. it’s a lot of competition but it’s great for the club.
“Obviously I love to see the likes of Matt and Mark do well. They’ve been good at the start of the season. But the better they do, the harder I’ve got to train and the better I’ve got to play, so it’s extra motivation.”
The focus now switches to Friday’s match with Bordeaux at Murrayfield, a different prospect requiring a different team. Taylor is hoping that he and several others who starred on Friday have done enough to be involved again.
“The boys have shown what they can do. We’ve come to France, a very difficult place to come and play and taken away five points. The boys really stepped up, so its making Cockers’ job a lot more difficult,” he concluded.