An inglorious Edinburgh season came to an end in the Dublin wind and rain on Saturday night as they lost 15-13 to Leinster. Alan Solomons, though, has scuppered notions his men might have of the beach and putting their feet up.
The South African has handed out individual training programmes to all his players and told them the condition he expects them to be in when he hauls them in for pre-season training on June 12.
The RaboDirect PRO12 trophy will only be sitting with its new minders 12 days when the Edinburgh coach will start to rectify the one major problem he feels has hindered them throughout his maiden campaign.
“We just know we can’t play the kind of rugby we want to play because of our conditioning,” said Solomons.
“If you look at our season, in the opening six games we struggled because we were putting in systems. When we improved their functional conditioning, we then went through a patch, that middle period of about 17 games, when we were fine. I think we did reasonably well and had some good victories.
“Then two games were postponed and we landed up with eight back-to-back games at the end of the season with injuries start coming through.
“We played Ulster in a hell of a game – it was very physical. We then played Treviso away, we travelled, threw the game away had a lot of opportunities, didn’t take them. A five-day turnaround, travelled to Wales, beat Newport and after that we were running on reserve tank. So I think the key for us is we are going to have a massive pre-season and we will ensure these players are properly conditioned.”
He was pleased with the way they forced the reigning champions to dig deep on Saturday night but in the end Edinburgh never looked like ending their season with a run of five straight defeats.
Yet, Solomons believes they have made progress and that once they get their fitness sorted they will continue to do so next season.
“I think we’ve earned some respect. I think we have come eighth in the Pro12, so that’s an improvement on our previous position. So we’ve improved that, without any pre-season, and with no role in recruitment or retention of players at all.
“I think we’ve improved in the Rabo, and in Europe, apart from the one season where we got through to the semi-finals in the last four years, it’s been our best performance.
“We’ve won three out of six, so I think in all the circumstances coming in at the start of the competitive season with no pre-season, no involvement with recruitment I’m very happy with what we’ve achieved this year,” he added.
Injuries have been a factor all season and they struck again on Saturday evening with centre Matt Scott likely to miss Scotland’s summer tour, while incoming national coach Vern Cotter, who had a bad enough weekend when Clermont were stunned by Castres and dumped out of the Top 14 with the loss of their 77-match unbeaten home run, now sweating on the availability of David Denton.
“He’s just took a knock to the head, he’ll have to go through the concussion protocols. I would imagine he would be okay for the tour,” said Solomons about Denton.
“Matt Scott I think has dislocated his shoulder, so I really can’t see him making that tour.”
The two of them were gone on Saturday night within half an hour, with Sam Beard injured inside three minutes, but Edinburgh still led 6-5 at the break with Greig Laidlaw landing penalties at either end of the half and Leinster flanker Jordi Murphy getting the opening try in between.
Leinster dominated the third quarter and looked set for a facile win when Dave Kearney made it 15-6 after 57 minutes, but Edinburgh dug in and Laidlaw signed off before heading to Gloucester by sending Tim Visser over 15 minutes from the end to ensure a nervous finish for the champions.
“I thought the guys played tremendously,” said Solomons. “We said at the beginning of the season we wanted to earn respect with the way we played, and we’ve been really fatigued the last three of four games because it’s been a tough season.”
Leinster: Tries: J Murphy, D Kearney. Pen: J Gopperth. Con: Gopperth
Edinburgh: Try: T Visser. Pens: G Laidlaw (2). Con: Laidlaw
Leinster: R Kearney (B Macken 62); F McFadden, B O’Driscoll, G D’Arcy (I Madigan 64), D Kearney; J Gopperth, I Boss; J McGrath (C Healy 52), R Strauss (S Cronin 12), M Ross (M Moore 52); L Cullen (R Ruddock 53), M McCarthy; S O’Brien (D Ryan 52), J Murphy, J Heaslip.
Edinburgh: C Bezuidenhout (P Francis 70); S Beard (G Hart 3), M Scott (B Atiga 28), A Strauss, T Visser; H Leonard, G Laidlaw; A Dickinson, R Ford (J Hilterbrand 64), WP Nel (S Berghan 64); G Gilchrist, B Toolis (A Toolise 58); M Coman, T Leonardi, D Denton (D Basilaia 27).
Referee: L Hodges (WRU).