EDINBURGH head coach Richard Cockerill praised his team’s resilience when defeating Glasgow Warriors in Scottish rugby’s comeback match at Murrayfield earlier this evening. The capital outfit were trailing 15-13 at the break but bounced back to secure a comfortable 15-30 victory which means they will have a home draw against Ulster in the PRO14 semi-finals in two weeks’ time.
“It was a really good win,” said the head coach. “I’m happy to get the result and we can play a lot better. I’m sure Glasgow will feel the same.
“There is lots to review and get better at but we’re very happy to be in a semi-final. We’ve worked hard at the breakdown knowing that it’s going to be important and we’ve got some guys who do it very, very well.
“Both sides wanted to play. We played more than I’d have liked us to at times, but it’s a good result. We knew we’d have to play for 80 minutes. We didn’t panic too much at half-time: we’d let them into our half too easily two times and they’d scored.
“We did the basics really well after half-time. We don’t need the fancy stuff, chucking balls, fancy offloads. We scored some really nice tries in that second half but we’ll create those without putting ourselves under pressure.
“We did some really good things and some really poor things,” he added. “But what I’m really happy with is the character of the team to stay in the battle and keep working. There was some good impact off the bench. We have to go and review and get better for next week.”
Edinburgh still weren’t guaranteed a home play-off at full-time. That had to wait until Leinster beat Munster later in the evening, and Cockerill acknowledged that he now has the luxury of resting a few of his key men so that they are fresh for the Ulster showdown. It is going to be a balancing act.
“We’ve still only played one game in five months so we need to get our guys match fit to play knock-out rugby,” he said. “The fixture is also important and we want to pay respect to it. It means a lot to us to beat Glasgow, our local rivals, so we’ll put a team out that we think can win [but] if we don’t need to win to make a home semi, we might look after some boys.”
The only real new injury concern for Edinburgh was second-row Andrew Davidson, but Cockerill said he wasn’t overly concerned on that front. “He got a whack on his neck and shoulder,” he explained. “With head injuries it’s important we look at him, so it was more of a precaution than a problem. I thought Jamie Hodgson did well and hopefully Andrew will come through to play next week.”
Meanwhile, opposite number Danny Wilson said frustration was his overriding emotion after watching his side’s second half slump.
“I think there was a couple of areas we’ll look back and be frustrated with,” he said. “First of all, it was a scrappy old game from the two sides, which you’d probably anticipate in the first hit-out. We failed to really build any pressure in phases – I think a lot of that was breakdown work, Edinburgh’s defensive breakdown was pretty accurate, while our attacking breakdown got on the wrong side of the referee and we gave a few penalties away there. That stalled our momentum a little bit.
“We need to look back on it [the number of ruck penalties conceded]. If you’re on that ball you get the reward way quicker than you would have done in the past. We saw that today.
“And then two soft tries – that’s how I look at it. That’s two tries that we shouldn’t be conceding, and they resulted from not getting out our own third, really, if you look at both of them. There’s a turnover there and then there’s a kick that stays on the field, and it leaves us in a really difficult defensive position.
“That’s the difference – two soft tries. Yeah, a little bit frustrating.”
Wilson added that next week’s match could still be a valuable exercise for him and his squad despite it now being a dead-rubber.
“It’s a derby, so we give that the full respect a derby deserves,” he stressed. “If there’s supporters in at that game as well, then that’s another reason for us to give it all the respect it deserves.
“At the same time, for me and the coaching group, we’ll get a chance to look at other combinations, maybe. It’s trying to balance that and trying to win a game at the same time.
“Today was my first look at some combinations while coaching the team, and next week will be the same with maybe a few others. But ultimately we want to come here and get a win first and foremost – we want to turn that result around.”
One of the experiments Wilson carried out this week was playing Huw Jones at full-back, and he was quietly satisfied with the outcome, although it should be noted that Edinburgh didn’t manage to put him under the sort of pressure which Cockerill had hoped for pre-match.
“I thought there was a lot of really good stuff from Huw, if I’m being brutally honest, but probably one or two errors,” said Wilson. “When you’re experimenting with something you’ve got to take a little bit on the chin and now was the time to do that. He dealt with a lot of high balls, probably missed one, and had maybe one kick that should have gone out. I thought on the whole he had a good performance.”