First the good news about Edinburgh Rugby’s latest performance: a 12-55 home defeat by Munster at Meggetland narrowly avoided surpassing their all-time Pro 12 League “record” setback which was 0-48 against Cardiff seven years ago.
Furthermore there are insufficient games left to emulate that desperate losing streak of seven-in-a-row last season for an Edinburgh team who have now lost five on the reel heading into their ultimate fixture at Leinster who, on current form, are odds-on to add to tartan agony.
So, when, in a bizarre ceremony on the pitch at full time supporters presented a replica “cauliflower ear” to their player of the year – goodness knows what the booby might be? – it was easy to see why if blindfolds had been handed out beforehand to a crowd of 3782 that might have been seen as a humane gesture given what was to come.
Afterwards coach Alan Solomons sought to play the “fatigue” card on behalf of a team who claim to be unable to rotate but have profligately given away the likes of Ross Rennie and Geoff Cross on loan while consigning internationalists of the calibre of Nick De Luca and Lee Jones to the sevens ranks. Others have been frozen out.
Step forward Nikki Walker and those young props of potential Robin Hislop and Alex Allan, amongst others.
Undaunted Solomons said: “Our team are at the end of a tough and challenging season but we have to hold our heads up and show resilience in that last game.” At least the South Arican acknowledged that Leinster, on their own patch, will be scenting blood.
“We’ve got to look at how we run the week and keep them as fresh as possible,” added the coach, looking shellshocked.
To be fair there were also admissions of too many turnovers and falling off tackles but for a more tell-it-like-it-is response to this rugby near-Armageddon it was necessary to go to a player who might have been excused being demob happy given an impending move to Gloucester but whose professionalism left him despairing of what had just gone before.
“We need to take the emotion out of it. It is about performing,” said Greig Laidlaw, pictured below. “That was a shameful performance by the boys.” Full marks for candour and despite the constant references from within and around the squad to “progress” this was a throwback to those fledgling pro days of the Welsh/Scottish League and some awful hidings at the hands of Pontypridd, Swansea and Cardiff.
Coach Solomons revisited the Murrayfield message of the importance of the national team when talking about preparing his next side, the one he declares will right the wrongs of past Edinburgh regimes. Addressing the impact of Scotland’s summer tour, he said: “The national team comes first and what is in the national team’s interest must predominate. That is absolutely right.”
However, without hot-spots around the country there will be no players for the national team; Edinburgh, down the decades with its Lions captains and Grand Slam backbones, has been red-hot. No longer, and the loss of 19 tries in the last four matches goes to the heart of the demise.
Keen students will have noted, too, that the loss of seven tries on Saturday is identical to the number conceded by Scotland when crashing 3-51 in Wales last time out.
On this occasion there were no red cards to put forward in mitigation only a late, late yellow to Grant Gilchrist.
Around the Scotland camp too the word “progress” is a mantra but those leaving Meggetland on Saturday are seeing through the spin. One disgruntled season ticket-holder summed up: “The only thing that would revive this team is four world class imports – and who in their right mind would want to cross the world to play for that lot?”
For much of the first half Edinburgh did compete with tries by Carl Bezuidenhout and Willem Nel. But from leading 12-10 after 21 minutes a massive 45 points unanswered were offered up albeit some, like Matt Scott in particular, kept battling to the end while Dimitri Basilaia gave a decent cameo off the bench. Surprise, surprise Basilaia is leaving – though that has yet to be announced.
Centre Scott shows aggression and determination in all he does and had he been named “man of the match” then most could have lived with that despite the overall result, if only for the fact he offers what hope there is. As it was there was one final twist to be endured by the long suffering as a suitably awkward looking Laidlaw – adequate but no more – accepted the prize.
Edinburgh: Tries – Bezuidenhout, Nel. Conversion – Laidlaw.
Munster: Tries – Conway, Hurley, Varley, Williams, O’Donnell, penalty tries (2). Conversions – Hanrahan (5), Murray. Penalties – Hanrahan (2).
Edinburgh: Cuthbert, Brown (Beard, 21), Scott, Strauss, Visser, Bezuidenhout, Laidlaw, captain (Hart 69), Dickinson (Blaauw), Ford (Hilterbrand 55), Nel, Gilchrist, Denton, Coman (B Toolis 71), Du Preez (Basilaia 54), Leonardi.
Munster: Zebo, van den Heever, Murphy, Hurley (Keatley 68), Conway (O’Dea, 40), Hanrahan (Murray 68), Murray (Williams 56), Cronin (Kilcoyne 67), Casey (Varley 30), Ryan (Cotter 71), O’Callaghan, O’Connell, captain (Foley 56), Stander (Coughlan 67), Butler, O’Donnell.
Referee: M Mitrea (Italy)