Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons stated the obvious after last night’s 22-9 RaboDirect PRO12 defeat against Scarlets at Murrayfield, as he identified a substantial tally of mistakes as the cause of the loss after a performance that offered little optimism for the club’s supporters.
“We are still making far too many errors and that is killing us. We just gave away crucial penalties in crucial areas of the pitch,” he said.
And no one in the 3586 crowd would dispute that assertion, although the apparent absence of progress from the previous week’s loss will be an even greater concern. Solomons has sought to play down expectations by insisting that the opening matches of the campaign constitute his pre-season, given his late arrival at the club. And this was certainly a game worthy of a late-summer pipe opener rather than a full blown league match.
The coach may have been heartened by the contributions of Greig Tonks and Dave Denton – the leading performers in the home ranks by some distance – while Jack Cuthbert offered occasional glimpses of his elusive running. But overall, there was little cheer.
After the usual aerial to-and-fro in the opening five minutes, the home side began to gain the upper hand, with Tonks and Denton each having a tilt at the Scarlets defence. However, the visitors had little difficulty in wrapping up those efforts.
There was no genuine threat to either line by the time the clock ticked up towards 15 minutes. At that point, the visitors earned a scrum inside the home 22 and sought to bustle their way over. That effort came to nothing and once again the game degenerated into a kicking contest, with neither side possessing the composure to construct a series of phases.
In Rhys Priestland, Scarlets had the one player who had displayed any guile during a dismal opening quarter, but he was so far ahead of his colleagues in thought and deed that the scoreboard never looked likely to click into life.
Edinburgh received a boost when Scarlets lock Jake Ball was sent to the sin bin for an offence at the breakdown. And, with 28 minutes played, the hosts had the first scoring opportunity of the encounter with a 22 metre penalty in front of the posts. Harry Leonard despatched the kick between the sticks to finally break the deadlock.
Having made the breakthrough, Edinburgh were penalised for holding on at the next breakdown and Priestland booted the equalising points.
And, restored to full strength, the visitors took the lead with a slick move that ended with Priestland firing out a pass that allowed Nick Reynolds to sprint in at the corner, before the creator booted the touchline conversion. However, Leonard banged over a well struck penalty with the final action of the half after an offence at a scrum, to cut the deficit to four points at the interval.
Edinburgh started the second period with a powerful surge from Tonks, which was carried on by Jack Cuthbert. And when John Barclay killed the ball at the breakdown, the Scotland international was despatched to the sin bin and Leonard’s trusty boot hauled the hosts back to within a point with his third penalty of the evening.
The visitors responded with an assault on the home defence that ended with Priestland again cast in the role of creator, with Jordan Williams the beneficiary on this occasion, although the Scarlets winger’s task was made considerably easier by some haphazard tackling.
Priestland missed with his conversion attempt and was also off the mark with a long range penalty, ensuring that Edinburgh remained within striking distance as the game stumbled into the final quarter.
But, the basic errors continued to take their toll and with 15 minutes left to play Edinburgh prop Willem Nel became the third man to see yellow, handing the momentum back to the Welsh outfit.
And a horrible night for the home side got worse when Priestland delivered a well-judged cross kick and Lee Jones fumbled the ball over the line where Jon Davies plunged over. Priestland’s conversion completed the misery for Solomons and his men who were left empty handed and bottom of the league table.
Edinburgh: Pens – Leonard (3)
Scarlets: Tries – Reynolds, J Williams, J Davies. Cons – Priestland (2). Pen – Priestland
Edinburgh Rugby: G Tonks (J Dominguez 73), L Jones, N De Luca (M Tait 48), B Atiga, J Cuthbert, H Leonard, S Hidalgo-Clyne (S Kennedy 53), A Dickinson (W Blaauw 62), R Ford, W Nel, G Gilchrist (S Cox 49), I van der Westhuizen, D Basilaia, R Grant, D Denton
Scarlets: L Williams, N Reynolds, J Davies, S Williams (G Maule 73), J Williams, R Priestland (A Thomas 77), R Williams (A Davies 67), P John (R Evans 69), E Phillips (K Owens 48), S Lee (J Adriaanse), J Ball (G Earle 53), J Snyman (S Timani 62), J Turnbull, J Barclay, R McCusker
Referee: D Wilkinson (RFU)