EDINBURGH’s failure to score against Glasgow last weekend was an aberration, and the squad are in a good position to start racking up the tries again in the coming weeks. Damien Hoyland, for one is convinced of that, and the evidence is in the winger’s favour.
Not only was that 1872 Cup defeat one of the very rare occasions on which the team have recorded the dreaded nul points, it was also a very stark contrast to their free-scoring ways of three previous games which preceded the derby double-header. Against the Southern Kings, London Irish and Krasny Yar, they scored a total of 27 tries and 176 points, and although those opponents are among the weaker sides they will face this season, the general trend since Richard Cockerill took over is similar.
The main reason for that is simple. Thanks in large part to the head coach, Edinburgh are playing in a far more confident fashion. Having been given the latitude to express themselves, they are enjoying their rugby more than they have done for years.
“There’s a lot more freedom than maybe we expected,” said Hoyland, who hopes to keep his place in the team for Friday’s PRO14 match against the Southern Kings at Myreside. “We’re basically told we can play from anywhere, and it’s great to have that freedom.
“We are confident: it doesn’t matter who we’re playing against, we know we’ve got players in that back line who will carve up and get the ball away in any given space. It’s good we’ve got the freedom to do that, and the more opportunity we have to do that the more confident we’ll get and the better it will get.
“It’s all about decision-making – that’s the main thing Cockers wants us to focus on. He’s happy for us to have a go from our 22 if it’s on. As long as it’s the right decision, he’ll be very happy and will keep pushing it forward.
“If it’s the wrong decision, you have to be able to flush it quickly and get on with it. It is something we’ve definitely got better at. It has been good the last few weeks but lacked a little in execution, which is fine: it’s something we can work on as long as the decision-making process is right.
“Look at the line breaks we made last week: we created so many opportunities but ended up giving the ball away too easily. That’s frustrating looking back, so it’s something we’re going to try and cut out this week.”
Given that the Kings have lost all 10 of their PRO14 outings to date and have not played since losing in South Africa to Edinburgh at the start of last month, this game certainly looks like the ideal opportunity to create a lot more opportunities – and hopefully to finish them off this time too. But, knowing that the Kings are dangerous out wide, particularly in broken play, Hoyland and his colleagues are aware they will have to defend at times and prevent the game from losing too much shape.
“That’s something we’ve looked at,” the 23-year-old continued. “We’ve made plans to stop their fast guys getting space, shutting down their opportunities to kick the ball in behind, because when those guys get the ball in hand with a bit of space they’re going to cause a bit of damage. Hopefully the weather is on our side and we can play to the conditions, which they’re not going to be used to.
“The Kings like to play quite a loose, open game, and that will suit us. If I can get my hands on the ball in a game like that I think I can have a good impact. It’s a good opportunity to build confidence and put my foot forward for selection in the coming weeks and months.”