Edinburgh face a dogfight for all-important sixth spot

Alan Solomons
Alan Solomons
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Alan Solomons believes Edinburgh are facing a Pro 12 dogfight to join Glasgow in next season’s European Champions Cup.

Victory at Parc y Scarlets was not only a feat in itself, but one that elevated Edinburgh into seventh place in the Guinness table.

Victory improves his side’s chances of earning a place in the top tier of European competition next season. However, he has warned that the end of season run-in will be anything but straightforward.

“It would be massive for Scottish rugby to have two teams in the top flight of European rugby,” said the Edinburgh coach.

“That sixth spot will be a dogfight right to the end. I don’t think anyone can claim to be a favourite to get that sixth spot.

“We have to win our home games against Munster and Leinster. I see it as a three-way contest between us, Scarlets and Connacht. Looking at the remaining games, Scarlets play the bottom four. However, the Italian sides are a different challenge away from home.”

First-half tries from Phil Burleigh and David Denton laid the platform for victory with Sam Hidalgo-Clyne adding 16 points from two conversions and four penalties.

The visitors led 17-15 at the break but helped themselves to nine points without reply in a second half in which Scarlets’ scrum-half Gareth Davies was sent off, two minutes after coming on as a replacement. Davies was dismissed by referee John Lacey for butting centre Andries Strauss.

From that moment on, Edinburgh were in total control with Hidalgo-Clyne adding penalties on the hour, 13 minutes later and two minutes from time. The win, Edinburgh’s ninth of the season, takes them three points above Scarlets and level with Connacht, who were beaten 42-20 by Munster.

Solomons must now focus on Sunday’s European Challenge Cup quarter-final against London Irish. “That’s going to be a tough game,” he said. “However, we’ve got the extra day for the turnaround. It would mean a lot to win that game. They are a very tight unit – they have faced a lot of challenges and they have risen to every one. We gave away eight penalties in the first 22-23 minutes and we turned over a lot of ball. But we kept up our composure and we went into the ‘shed’ up.

“I thought we came out in the second half and did really, really well. It was a big challenge with many of the Scottish squad players not playing. I thought Stuart McInally and Rory Sutherland both had terrific games.”

Man of the match Hidalgo-Clyne said: “It’s a fantastic result in trying to get sixth place. I’m absolutely loving my rugby at the moment.”

Scarlets: J Williams (R Priestland 60); H Robinson, R King, S Williams (M Tagicakibau 37; E Phillips 74), H Parkes; S Shingler, A Davies (G Davies 57); R Evans (P John 50), K Owens, P Edwards (J Adriaanse 69), J Ball, G Earle (J Payne 37), L Rawlins (R Pitman 57), J Davies, J Barclay.

Edinburgh: J Cuthbert; T Brown, P Burleigh, A Strauss, T Visser; G Tonks, S Hidalgo-Clyne; R Sutherland (G Shiells 71), S McInally, A Nel (J Andress 71), A Bresler (F McKenzie 62). B Toolis, M Conan (R Grant 47), H Watson, D Denton.

Scorers

Scarlets: Penalties – Shingler (5)

Edinburgh: Tries – Burleigh, Denton. Conversions – Hidalgo-Clyne (2). Penalties – Hidalgo-Clyne (4)