Rugby: Edinburgh in another first-day defeat

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History repeated itself as Edinburgh Rugby lost their opening Rabo Direct Pro 12 League encounter for the sixth time in seven seasons in going 
down 18-23 to Munster at 
Murrayfield.

This time, however, the setback is more worrying and not just coming on the back of a £600,000 increase on the playing budget to £4.2 million.

Determined to hit the ground running Edinburgh fielded a starting line-up that included nine players who figured in a European Cup semi-final just two competitive matches ago – we’ll draw a veil over the season ending with an ignominious second-bottom league placing above only a team who are now defunct – whereas Munster asked 11 to step into the side who had ended 2011-12 starting a domestic play-off semi-final.

So, the portents were there for deeds of derring-do; instead the crowd of 4050, which actually compared unfavourably to the 5443 who watched Edinburgh launch their season at home to Munster in 2008, were fed déjà-vu.

So, how come great expectations, partly fuelled by the chief executive of the Scottish Rugby Union going on radio earlier in the day to re-iterate claims that the Scotland side who Edinburgh are meant to fuel can win the 2015 World Cup, failed to materialise?

Michael Bradley, the Edinburgh coach, believes it was one that got away and that the chance to win against an Irish province for the first time in 11 months slipped through the fingers.

And, if it is accepted that the otherwise admirable Ross Rennie appeared to have another aberration – remember the delayed pass for Scotland against England – by kicking away possession with Richie Rees on his shoulder and a clear run to the line ahead, then maybe the coach has a point.

But Bradley also knows the defence was woeful in the lead up to a try by Luke O’Dea for the second match in succession between the sides, and there was an inclination to play across the pitch at times with discipline a concern as the penalty count mounted.

Typically, Bradley was honest in his assessment especially referring to how a 10-3 lead was blown. “We got off to a nice start when we got ahead and, in a game like this and a competition like this against opponents like that, it is important that we don’t let them back in as easily as we did.

“That is the lesson for us unfortunately. At 10-3 with three minutes to go (until half-time) we lacked a bit of composure in what we were trying to do.

“In our own 22 we turned the ball over and eventually they got a score from that.

“At the start of the second half it was something similar where we chased a box kick and our chasers went beyond the ball.

“They got field position out of it and scored under the posts.

“That was not smart play by us in those particular incidents. We should be better than that.

“Last year we might have said it was a strong Munster side and we did well but our expectations are to win those games.

“They had another four or five (internationals) to bring back. We would normally cope with that. We had the opportunity to win the game.

“We created a little bit more than they did. But we didn’t finish. A couple of simple scores cost us so that is frustrating.

“You have to learn to put sides like that away. We chased well and, in fairness to the guys, when we went ten points down we constructed a beautiful try.

“We came back at them and then with five minutes to go they were under pressure and creaking. Then we gave away a soft penalty on their line and we have to learn not to do that.

“We have to get those points back.”

In fairness Edinburgh did collect a bonus point for finishing within a single score and that is something they haven’t garnered in their last two opening-day defeats.

Also, Tim Visser’s second league hat-trick to follow one from off the bench against Ospreys in 2010, has taken him to 60 league tries and second in the all-time competition charts.

Equally encouraging was the rapport winger Visser struck up with new full back Greg Tonks while up front there was outstanding covering from Stuart McInally who also capitalised on a brilliant turnover from Ross Rennie to spark the second touchdown, even if after that plus points are harder to find.

Earlier Visser had capitalised on good work by Greig Laidlaw and Tonks and Edinburgh were well placed without the awkward conversions to shrug off an Ian Keatley penalty.

However, when Keatley got in behind a flat defence for a try he converted Edinburgh were never to regain the lead even though Laidlaw equalised another penalty.

Instead O’Dea sliced through and Keatley’s boot provided insurance against the third Visser try which also went unconverted from wide out.

The quest to “get those points back” continues on Friday at Cardiff where Edinburgh have lost on their last three visits, albeit in a different stadium, conceding 97 points and scoring 34. Heineken heroes may be in there somewhere but at the moment they are being engulfed by Rabo retrogrades.

Scorers:

Edinburgh: Tries: T Visser (3). Penalty: Laidlaw.

Munster: Tries: Keatley, O’Dea. Conversions: Keatley (2). Penalties: Keatley (3).

Edinburgh: Tonks, Jones, De Luca, Atiga, T. Visser, Laidlaw, (captain), Rees, Yapp. Ford, Nel. Cox, Gilchrist, Denton, McInally, Rennie,

Subs: Houston for Atiga (65), Jacobsen for T Visser (51), Leck for Rees (61), Basilaia for McInally (61), Parker for Gilchrist (68), Cross for Nel (51), Titterrell for Ford (61). Not Used: Hunter.

Munster: D Foley, Howlett (captain), Laulala, Downey, O’Dea, Keatley, Williams, Du Preez, Varley, Botha, D O’Callaghan, Holland, Butler, Coughlan, Dougall.

Subs: Dineen for Laulala (65), Stringer for Williams (73), Kilcoyne for Du Preez (56), Sherry for Varley (51), D Foley for Butler (65), O’Mahony for Dougall (72). Not Used: Archer, Deasy.

Referee: L Hodges (Wales).