Edinburgh skipper Ross Ford insists that he and his colleagues still believe they can qualify for the knockout phase of the European Challenge Cup, despite the fact that they are likely to be overtaken at the top of Pool 5 today.
Edinburgh’s bonus point in a 26-20 loss away to Stade Francais on Thursday means they are top, three points ahead of Harlequins. However, the London club should post a win over Timisoara today, with a four-try bonus the likely outcome.
That would leave Edinburgh needing to take something from their trip Twickenham Stoop to face Harlequins on the second weekend in January and then hope the west Londoners suffer the same fate as the Scots when they travel to meet Stade, who are not yet ruled out of progressing although that would take an unlikely set of results.
Reflecting on the possibility that Edinburgh could yet feature in the next phase, Ford said: “We are still in the hunt. That losing bonus point was important. We were still going for it at the end and that shows the character. We’re still in the hunt just now. All we can do is learn the lessons.”
The hooker was delighted at the way his men battled back against a Stade team that was in full flight during the first half at Stade Jean Bouin in Paris. But he concedes that inconsistency during matches is becoming an annoyance.
“We let them relieve the pressure too easily in the first half. We made some good inroads at times in their 22 and then ill discipline let them get away out of their half.
“Then we were under the pump for a while and the referee wasn’t giving us much at all. So that put us under pressure and they converted some pretty easy points.
“We made it hard work for ourselves.”
That task was made even tougher when the referee awarded a penalty try and yellow carded Edinburgh prop Simon Berghan after the first drive by the Frenchmen at a close-range scrum – a decision that seemed inconsistent with the judgment of many officials who permit numerous collapsed scrums before taking action.
Their anger may been a factor in Edinburgh resuming with greater determination after going into the break 26-3 down. However, for Ford, the damage done in the first half was a source of frustration, particularly as the Capital men ended the match in the ascendancy and looked as if they might take more than a single point.
“It’s the second week in a row (that’s happened) but we have played games where we have blown teams away in the first half and it’s been the second half that we’ve slowed down.
“It’s frustrating because we’ve shown we can do it in the first half and we can do it in the second half. If we could do it for 80 minutes that would be great.
“To come back from that to play some really good rugby at times and force our way back into the game, to get the losing bonus point and still be going for the win at the end shows massive character from the boys but that first half killed us.”
The festive break will allow time for reflection on what can be done to address Edinburgh’s habit of playing well for only parts of matches. They will certainly not wish to repeat that when they return to Guinness PRO12 duty against Glasgow Warriors at BT Murrayfield on Boxing Day.
Ford is ready to move on from the European disappointment and is already anticipating that contest with their rivals from along the M8, stating: “We’ve got a good rest now before the Glasgow game so the boys will be fresh come that game.
“The boys will be back during the week and we will get ready for that.”