Solomons is king of half-time team-talk

Edinburgh's Roddy Grant, above, breaks through the London Welsh defence. Picture: Getty
Edinburgh's Roddy Grant, above, breaks through the London Welsh defence. Picture: Getty
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Roddy Grant has praised the measured approach of coach Alan Solomons when utilising half-time talks to get the team back on track.

Edinburgh head for London Welsh on Sunday determined to protect an unbeaten record in Pool Four of the European Challenge Cup and move to within a win of qualifying for knock-out rounds for the first time in over a decade.

But in two of the three wins so far the Capital outfit have been trailing halfway through.

The latest example came last weekend against London Welsh at BT Murrayfield when Edinburgh fumbled their way to a 6-13 deficit before going on to record 19 unanswered points.

It was a first half display that had supporters tearing their hair out – one of the kinder message board comments read “must have been the ER Xmas night out last night as they were completely comatose in the first half” – but true to form shown at Bordeaux Begles, the tables were eventually turned.

Said Grant: “Alan Solomons is always very good at half-time. It is always clear points and an a, b and c of where to go and what to do.

“It’s the same at the end of the game. It is always level-headed analysis.”

Wing forward Grant, who went on to claim a man-of-the-match award for his resolute tackling and ball-winning, admitted the first half display was erratic, even shrugging aside suggestions that there had been a wearing down of the opposition which contributed to the second half surge.

“I don’t think we can take much from first half; we were really poor,” he said. “We lost ball and the breakdown was messy.”

However, Grant acknowledges positives in the way Edinburgh sorted out problems and refused to panic, coming to the conclusion that to get a win while below par can be the sign of an accomplished team.

“It was a case of trying to get our basics right and we felt really comfortable in our defence,” he said.

“When you concede an interception try as we did that is always against the run of play.

“We were comfortably in the game, but it is by getting the basics right that you light the spark. Our carries were stronger and we looked after the ball. At the breakdown we had to stick another guy into the ruck and that gave us more secure ball.

“The second half saw us concentrate more on our own game and by building phases momentum developed,” added Grant, who wants Edinburgh to carry on where the left off at the Kassam Stadium, Oxford.

There was also the notable impact made, though, by a string of well-timed substitutes, again reflecting well on those who call the shots on a rare occasion when few, if any, alterations were determined by injury, albeit stand off Tom Heathcote had taken the field concerned by a hamstring issue.

Grant said: “Being on the pitch you notice who comes on and plays well. I though Tonksy (Greig Tonks) played well, but I could name-check all the subs.

“They really added value and the way rugby is if you get guys arriving giving go forward and momentum that is especially good as sides get weaker. In fact, it’s huge.

“All teams will say it, but it really is a focus to be a difficult team to play at home. If you can make your home a fortress it does make it much easier to progress.

“Once you have that there is a ‘band of brothers’ attitude on away trips.

“We are under no illusions it was not a great performance last week but good to win.”

One of those who came off the Edinburgh bench to such good effect, Neil Cochrane, backed his colleague’s views about interval appraisals.

“It has to be methodical. You can rant and rave all you want, but the boys knew the standards had to be upped in the second half.

“We were maybe a bit over-eager attacking-wise in the first half when we had hands on the ball and maybe a little nervous.

“We settled down in the second half and London Welsh couldn’t live with us.

“(So) when going down there in search of another victory in European competition, we need to take that confidence with us.”

London Welsh coach Justin Burnell’s side may be out of qualifying contention, but he insists they will not roll over.

“We have learnt a lot about our performance and we will be rectifying basic errors.

“In attack we need to make better decisions, pass when it’s on.”

Hinting at a selection shake-up, he added: “Some individuals have to take a good hard look at themselves.”

POOL 4 STANDINGS

P W D L F A Pts

Edinburgh 3 3 0 0 65 43 12

Bordeaux Begles 3 2 0 1 102 64 11

Lyon 3 1 0 2 74 80 5

London Welsh 3 0 0 3 51 105 0

WEEKEND FIXTURES

Pool 1: Femi-CZ Rugby Rovigo v Grenoble (tomorrow, 2.00); 
London Irish v Cardiff Blues 
(tomorrow, 3.00)

Pool 2: Exeter Chiefs v La Rochelle (tomorrow, 3.00); Bayonne v 
Connacht (tomorrow, 7.45).

Pool 3: Stade Francais 31, Newcastle 24; Dragons v Bucharest Wolves (today, 7.45)

Pool 4: Lyon v Bordeaux Begles (tomorrow, 6.30); London Welsh v Edinburgh (Sun, 2.30)

Pool 5: Zebre v Gloucester 
(tomorrow, 3.00), Oyonnax v Brive (tomorrow, 5.30).