EDINBURGH hooker Steve Lawrie refused to take solace from finally ending an injury exile of 376 days to insist a 21-17 defeat by Glasgow in the RaboDirect PRO 12 League at Murrayfield had soured his long awaited comeback.
Scorers: Edinburgh: Tries: Grant, T Visser. Conversions: Laidlaw (2). Penalty: Laidlaw. Glasgow: Tries: Jackson, Pyrgos, Maitland. Penalties: Horne (2)
The Capital outfit have now won only one of their last nine encounters with Glasgow and, as coach Michael Bradley acknowledged, the scoreline flattered his ailing team on this occasion.
It was indeed a shambolic display from Edinburgh and crumbs of comfort were hard to find unless it was the urgency and determination demonstrated by 28-year-old Lawrie when he emerged for the last 11 minutes to complete a journey which began when he twisted a knee in training on December 18 last year.
Within moments of coming on as a 69th minute substitute, Lawrie, Edinburgh born and bred, appeared to be telling it like it is to more experienced colleagues along with flanker, Roddy Grant. What exactly were they saying? Was it a message sent on by coaches with Edinburgh somehow trailing by just 10-21 with Glasgow having butchered a string of chances?
“We said let’s have a bit of belief. Let’s go. They have had 60 minutes of this game. Get the finger out. Let’s start being a bit nasty and getting this game won,” revealed Lawrie, who added: “We could have won although could’ve, would’ve, should’ve doesn’t wash – leaders need to step up to drive things forward.
“Everybody has to have a bit of belief. We are not panicking. We are not divided or anything like that. At the minute we are in a position in the league where we don’t want to be and it is going to take character. We need to step up and get it sorted.
“When things are going wrong we need to come together, have a look at the areas that are going well, look at what is not going right, correct them, and get the ship going forward again. That is two bad defeats to be honest. There is no way of dressing that up.
“I am so gutted for the fans and the staff who put the graft in at the stadium.
“The fans want to see you have a bit of fire about you and we didn’t show that enough.”
Of course, it is easy to talk the talk but there was no doubting the passion and sincerity from Lawrie who, even with two British and Irish Lions ahead of him in the pecking order where Ross Ford, currently injured, is No. 1 with Andy Titterrell his understudy, the player oozed the type of conviction needed by an Edinburgh side who have won only twice at Murrayfield this season.
Minutes into the interview a crestfallen Lawrie finally acknowledged that the day hadn’t been completely wasted so far as he was concerned.
“Yes, I was chuffed to get back after the journey I have been through and what helped enormously was support from family including my wife, Alison.The physios, coaches and Floyd Woodrow (sports psychologist) have all to be repaid as well, but that (team) performance was unacceptable.
“It was all there at the end but it took us 60 minutes to get going. A crowd like that (11,225) deserved so much better.
“I was just dying to play all week and then Edinburgh don’t turn up until the last 20 minutes. It’s hugely disappointing.
“We have to take the positives because there is a game next week; we look at what we did well.
“When we scrummed well, when we won our line-out, when we played good areas and did sensible things, when we didn’t put ourselves under pressure we looked a threat, but, ultimately, we didn’t do that for long enough in the game.
“I am always magnanimous – fair play to Glasgow but we need to look at ourselves and regroup.”
Reluctant to put himself in the spotlight by focusing on how he has come through the last 12 months, which included helping coach Heriot’s, Lawrie did admit: “I have learned big time when out injured. Edinburgh let me do a lot of analysis stuff and I am doing my coaching qualifications.
“That allows me to reinforce everything I think about the game.
“(Ex Scotland captain) Gary Callander said if you coach it to somebody you have a fuller understanding.
“I have looked at myself and appreciated how much I love this game. Watching has been so tough, missing it so bad.
“Now it is about taking every opportunity that comes my way and if we had done that on Saturday we would have won the game.”
It might be too glib to say Edinburgh need to take a leaf out of the book of somebody denied the privilege of wearing the famous jersey and share his desire but, certainly, from this observer’s perspective, winning is not going to be achieved consistently until whoever is responsible – club or international management – stop chopping and changing the line-up so as to develop continuity allowing for Scotland calls and injuries.
In 16 matches Edinburgh have started 33 different players and that doesn’t include regular substitute Robin Hislop.
Within that there have been nine different centre combinations and eight sets of half-backs. The talk is constantly of rotation but only for some when full back Greg Tonks has started 15 matches!
Revealingly, Tonks told me before the latest debacle “there is no substitute for playing every week. When teams swap and change a lot of errors often come in.”
This honesty coming from a player who has appeared week in, week out to become Edinburgh’s most notable performer in the first half of this season.
So, when coach Bradley writes in the programme “we must have a more cohesive approach” surely that must mean basing selections more on current form, and Edinburgh’s looseness was summed up by their single visit to the Glasgow “22” during the opening half where a line-out malfunction cost ground.
It wasn’t until the 46th minute that they got another sniff of the visitors’ “22” partly because the scrum, with its much trumpeted front row rotation, was shredded.
All the while Glasgow were passing up gilt edged chances and yet Edinburgh were still in contention in this derby and, had they taken the three points instead of kicking a penalty to the corner in 57 minutes , they might have been able to engineer a winning drop goal late on. That would have been a travesty, however, as Glasgow had the upper hand from when Sean Maitland capitalised on mayhem in the home defence for the opening try in six minutes and, although Greig Laidlaw cut the gap, an intercept try for Ruaridh Jackson gifted by Piers Francis made it 3-10 with two Peter Horne penalties leaving Edinburgh further adrift at the break.
A Henry Pyrgos try when Allan Jacobsen was in the sin-bin balancing out an earlier yellow card for Horne at least meant Edinburgh could throw caution to the wind.
This they did with Roddy Grant exploiting a brilliant chip from Laidlaw for 21-8 and later Tonks getting up to provide the pass that saw Tim Visser equal Ulster’s Tommy Bowe at the top of the all-time league try charts on 48.
For good measure Laidlaw’s conversion took him to 403 points in all games for Edinburgh but that will be little comfort to an increasingly disgruntled Edinburgh support. Or, rather, what’s left of a support which has been short changed not only by the performances but by the rotations, too. Perhaps the two were connected on a day when the 1872 Cup – at stake over two legs – was retained in the most comfortable of fashions.
Edinburgh: Tonks, Fife, Scott, King (Atiga, 55 mins), T Visser, Francis (Rees, 55), Laidlaw (captain), Jacobsen (Basilaia, 63), Titterrell (Lawrie, 69), Cross (Niven, 69), Gilchrist (Parker, 69), Cox, Denton, Talei (Hislop, 52), Grant. Sub not used: S Visser.
Glasgow: Hogg, Maitland (Matawalu, 75), S Lamont, Horner (Morrison, 59), Van der Merwe, Jackson (Weir, 59), Pyrgos, Grant (Reid, 67), Hall (McArthur, 76), Low (Araoz, 76), Ryder (Swinson, 50), Kellock (captain), Strauss (Eddy, 55), Wilson, Harley.
Referee: N Paterson (SRU).