EDINBURGH RUGBY ace Chris Paterson insists he is comfortable with the timing of his departure from the game. Now retired, the 34-year-old will remain an employee of Scottish Rugby and will work in developing young players. The terms of his new role will be revealed tomorrow.
His final game as a player was a triumph for Paterson, who contributed one of his side’s five tries as Edinburgh finally reproduced their Heineken Cup form on the RaboDirect PRO12 stage, easing to a 44-21 win over Benetton Treviso at Murrayfield on Saturday evening.
Reflecting on his last performance in an Edinburgh jersey, Paterson said, “The game went well and I enjoyed it. I feel guilty because I feel that I should be crying and emotional, but I’m happy. I’m not sad because I’ve had such a great career. Because I feel happy and I’m certainly proud of what I’ve achieved, it just underlines that it’s the right time, I think.”
Scotland’s most capped player is enthused by the club’s emerging talent. The average age of Saturday’s starting line up was 26 – a figure boosted by Paterson and 33-year old Allan Jacobsen – but featured youngsters in the shape of Tom Brown, the man who has seized his opportunity to claim the full back berth from Paterson in recent weeks, Matt Scott, Grant Gilchrist and Dave Denton.
“The young guys who have come in this year have come in and made an impact, which we haven’t had of late. Young guys used to come in and get protected a bit. That bodes well for next season,” added Paterson.
While Paterson earned the man of the match award for his contribution to Saturday’s win, there were numerous contenders for that accolade, with skipper Greig Laidlaw – the recipient of the players’ player of the year vote last week – outstanding once again, while Denton and his back row colleagues Roddy Grant and Ross Rennie were typically workmanlike and Brown continued to catch the eye with his adventurous counter attacking.
Laidlaw opened the scoring with a penalty and converted a try by Denton before adding another penalty then racing in for Edinburgh’s second touchdown and again adding the extra two points. Ludovico Nitoglia crossed for a try, converted by Kris Burton before Laidlaw landed another penalty to send Edinburgh in at half time with a 23-7 lead.
Tomasso Benvenuti hauled Treviso back into the game with a converted try that sparked an instant riposte from the hosts. While Edinburgh’s squad featured five other players making their final appearance for the club, the focus was firmly on Paterson, and the full back duly delivered what the crowd wanted to see when he raced onto a kick ahead by Laidlaw to bag his 23rd try for Edinburgh in league competition.
Laidlaw again converted and, although Edoardo Gori struck back with a converted try that kept Treviso in the game, the home side made the game safe with further tries by Visser and Kyle Traynor, one of five men who came off the bench to make their final appearances for the club.
Laidlaw maintained his immaculate kicking record with both conversions. The 26-year-old captain’s reliability with boot is now every bit as potent a weapon in Edinburgh’s armoury as Paterson’s was in 2007/08 when he accumulated a string of 36 successful kicks – believed to be a world record – in test matches.
Laidlaw was pleased to see his side produce some entertaining but effective rugby and avoid entering the summer break on a negative note, saying, “I’m delighted to end the season with a good victory and score a few tries. There was a couple of little shakes in there, but we kept them well away from us in terms of the scoreboard and I’m just delighted to win the game.
And, in assessing the season overall, he added, “When you make the semis of the Heineken Cup, it’s a good season. No other Scottish team has ever got there. If I’m being honest, we maybe should have made the final. We are disappointed about that, but there were a lot of good games in there, especially the Heineken ones away from home.
“We’ve had good performances in the league as well but we were just inconsistent. Looking forward to next season, that’s something we need to fix.
With 11 players now having left the club, Laidlaw is relishing the prospect of welcoming their replacements as Edinburgh attempt to progress both in Europe and on the domestic front.
“These new guys will be coming in and it’s a new challenge for them. Hopefully, they will be really buzzing and looking forward to getting stuck in. They will give us that lift we need week in, week out and bring a fresh energy. Hopefully, that will help the consistency.”
For Paterson, exciting times await as he seeks to develop a career away from the playing side. He has never been a man to dwell on the past and that remains his philosophy, saying of his departure, “That’s professional sport. The eras change and we move on. You only ever borrow the jersey.”
Scorers: Edinburgh: Tries: Denton, Laidlaw, Paterson, Visser, Traynor. Cons: Laidlaw (5) Pens: Laidlaw (3)
Treviso: Tries: Nitoglia, Benvenuti, Gori. Cons: Burton (3)
Edinburgh: C Paterson (H Leonard 78), T Brown, N De Luca, M Scott, T Visser, G Laidlaw, C Leck (P Godman, 67), A Jacobsen (K Traynor, 67), R Ford (A Kelly 67), G Cross (J Gilding, 52), G Gilchrist, S Cox (S Turnbull, 50), D Denton (A MacDonald 53), R Rennie, R Grant
Benetton Treviso: L McLean, E Gori, T Benvenuti, A Sgarbi (T Iannone 67), L Nitoglia, K Burton, F Semenzato (B Williams 40), M Rizzo (M Muccignat 61), F Sbaraglini (E Ceccato 56), I Fernandez-Rouyet (Cittadini 40), V Bernabo (M Filippucci 56), C Van Zyl, F Minot, A Zanni, R Barbieri (G Padro 67).