EDINBURGH skipper Nic Groom believes there were enough positives in Saturday’s defeat against Bordeaux-Begles to suggest the Scottish side would offer sterner opposition in the event of the sides meeting up again in the knockout stage of the European Challenge Cup.
With the French outfit now guaranteed a home quarter-final draw and Edinburgh sure to be away from home if they can safely negotiate next weekend’s final pool match against Agen, another trip to the Stade Chaban-Delmas is a possibility.
Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill left some of his big guns out of Saturday’s 32-17 defeat to Bordeaux and their return would boost the capital side, and Groom also believes there were aspects of Saturday’s performance that, if better executed, could have made the outcome much closer.
“I think we had some really good moments in the game and I think we had some really poor moments in the game. When you’re playing against a top side, when those poor moments come, they hurt you. Credit to them, there weren’t many times when they wasted their chances and they got a win against us when I thought there were times when we played really well,” said Groom.
“We knew that they’ve got some really exciting players. I thought in the first half, the scoreboard told the story. They scored two really good tries, mainly off our mistakes,” said the 29-year-old scrum-half who has impressed in his first season with the club, both in terms of his on-field contribution and his leadership skills. “We struggled with our set-piece ball, especially from our line-out. They exited well from their 22 and forced us into a set-piece battle – they’ve got some superstars there and they came out on top in that area.”
And, whether Bordeaux or someone else prove to be Edinburgh’s opponents at the knockout stage, Groom believes there will be worthwhile lessons to be had from taking a fresh look at how Saturday’s encounter unfolded.
“Whatever the case, this will be a good game for us to review. When you’re playing against one of the top sides in Europe, meeting them in the quarter-final will be tough, but maybe we’ll take some really good learnings out of this week and if we come up against them again, we will have to be better in certain areas and make much more of a game out of it.”
On the positive side, there were plenty of aspects that offered grounds for optimism, and Groom cited a few. “I think we showed a lot of effort and we were really brave in some areas. We actually defended pretty well one-on-one, despite being quite loose with the ball at times”, he pointed out.
“They have some exciting players in their back line if you’re giving them lots of space. But I thought our sheer doggedness at times was good. It’s been the hallmark of our season that the boys put in some big hits, and some guys were really battling hard. We scored two tries. I felt that maybe if we had executed our set piece bit better, we would have had a proper game out of it.”
Now for Groom, as with all of his colleagues, the focus switches to this week’s match against an Agen side whose attention is more focused on the bid for domestic survival.
“We need to give ourselves the best chance. After next week, we’ve got a bit of a break. We drew at home against Bordeaux and we always knew that in these last two games we need to take all the points we can. We need to put our best foot forward and get into a quarter-final, then anything can happen,” concluded Groom.