Drop-goal maestro Phil Godman has given a unique insight into the depth of planning that sees Edinburgh Rugby today stand on the brink of rare qualification for the knockout stages of the Heineken European Cup.
The Capital outfit’s hopes remain very much alive going into a crucial clash with London Irish at Murrayfield on Sunday, partly on the back of substitute Godman’s sense of timing as well as his skill in knocking over the three pointer which achieved a 27-24 win at Racing Metro last time.
“I wanted to make sure it was the last act of the match and they didn’t get a chance to re-start,” said Godman of his angled effort from approximately 35 metres out which has undoubtedly played a part in earning him a call-up to the national squad today.
Added Godman in a reference to how Edinburgh’s team as a whole had matured: “A few years ago we might have attempted the kick earlier. Fair play to the forwards who now know how to hold on to the ball, allowing me to get into position to get a good shot at goal. It is not that long ago that we showed we could score a try, then at the restart give away points.
“With drop-goals, when you are winding down the clock, you only get one chance and have to take it. First and foremost I was trying to get deep enough so I could get the shot off, that was the most important thing.
“I’ve been back in the pocket waiting for the ball to try to drop a goal plenty of times and I’d have been disappointed to have missed that one in Paris.
“Some of the boys did remark on how deep I sat, but with forwards of around 6ft 5in running at you to attempt a charge down you have got to give yourself a bit of space.
“After that it was a bit like getting a golfing putt up to the hole for it to have a chance of dropping. I had to make sure I had a good strike and I knew when the ball left my foot it was going over.” Not to be underestimated in this Edinburgh success story – a bonus-point win on Sunday would guarantee qualification – is the ability of skipper Greig Laidlaw to switch between scrum-half and stand-off.
Laidlaw flung out the pass for the vital drop-goal, Godman having come on for Mike Blair to instigate the switch in half-back planning that asked fresh questions of the opposition defence.
“I count myself so fortunate to play with two quality scrum-halves. It is pretty impressive Greig swapping between the two positions though. In Paris he showed a particularly cool head when, after landing a kick in 73 minutes to get us level, he helped us get back down the pitch for the winner. It worked out to a plan which was nice.”
Having put a lengthy absence due to knee trouble behind him the prospect of adding to 23 Scotland caps looms large again.
At 29 he feels he is approaching peak powers. “The injury was handled well by Edinburgh’s medics especially after I aggravated the damage at the beginning of the season. I was very anxious to return but, in hindsight, holding me back was the right option.
“Now I’m absolutely ready.
You always think about getting back into it for the club but also about playing for Scotland as well. It’s just great to be back playing for Edinburgh and to be back involved with Scotland,”
Dan Parks, Duncan Weir and Ruaridh Jackson as well as Greig Laidlaw are other stand offs in contention and Godman knows competition will be tough.
“I know I have to keep taking opportunities and there is a lot more to it than grabbing the headlines for a last second drop-goal.”
There can be little doubt that playing successfully under pressure in Europe is giving Edinburgh’s players an edge as well as a heightened sense of their capabilities. “In Europe, until now, we never managed to make an impression during my time at the club. In the league we have had our moments, but certainly the burning ambition is to do something in Europe and first up we must beat London Irish and take it from there. Along the way I hope we smash the crowd record (7711). It’s a massive game for the club and the city.”
Meanwhile, Godman has revealed why he has taken to wearing a padded helmet.
“After getting bashed against Glasgow at Firhill I needed a few stitches which meant acquiring a scrum cap to protect the wound. The only colour they had left was light blue and I was stuck with it.
“The main comment I’m getting is: ‘what on earth do you have on your head’, and I might go for a more reserved option after the mixed reviews.”
For the superstitious, surely Phil’s helmet is a lucky mascot – for one more game at least!