Rugby: Small steps of progress for Edinburgh – but same Euro result

GOOD things comes to those who wait and that was the case for Edinburgh Rugby against Munster, both in terms of breaking their Heineken European Cup try drought and the start of young prop Robin Hislop after 18 appearances from off the bench.

A 17-26 defeat was not the result Hislop or Edinburgh were looking for in front of a crowd of 6220 at wintry Murrayfield. However, the circumstances, with Edinburgh roaring back from 3-26 adrift to post two late tries from uncapped winger Dougie Fife, offered hope that a corner may have been turned.

That was the view of Hislop who, one month short of his 21st birthday, represents the future of the game north of the Border.

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“Greig Laidlaw [the Edinburgh captain] spoke afterwards and said while we were obviously disappointed and frustrated as far as going forward was concerned, we fronted up against a tough Munster team.” said Hislop.

“It will be tough next week away to Saracens, but we have (now) to build on that.”

In truth, Edinburgh were always playing catch-up and the damage was done when French referee Jonathan Gasnier thrice penalised the home scrum. That contributed to a 3-12 
interval deficit.

Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley, in an honest assessment, preferred to wait until studying video footage before drawing any conclusions about the scrum and if his remarks hinted that the ref was not entirely on top of the situation, Hislop was able to shed further light on what was a key area.

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The 20-year-old may be a rookie in terms of appearances, but he has been around long enough to know that scrums are expected to engage straight on.

According to Hislop – this son of a former Scotland B prop – Munster’s South African BJ Botha was able to indulge some dark arts.

“I’m a bit disappointed with some of the penalties. I thought he [Botha] was coming in at the angle. That is what he does and he is very good at it. It’s down to the ref’s interpretations and what he makes of it at the end of the day, but I learned a lot from being in that game.”

Hislop was a replacement for Allan Jacobsen, who was struck down by a calf injury after originally being selected, and played a part in ensuring Edinburgh at least got themselves in the game and were not caught cold.

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“We played our way through the first 20 minutes, then counted off the game in ten-minute segments, knowing we had to be careful against a team like Munster.

“We were particularly pleased with some of our defence and when they attacked our line just before the interval, the aim was to get into the dressing room without conceding a try.

“When they did get through in the second half it was with a penalty try. I was gutted at losing that score because I felt he (Botha) was angling in.

“However, when Dougie Fife scored his first for us, we built momentum helped by upping the pace.”

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Munster’s qualification hopes hinge on their home tie with Racing Metro next week and while disappointed not to get a four-try bonus, coach Rob Penney was generous in acknowledging why that was the case.

“Edinburgh defended brilliantly, defended as if their lives depended on it, but I don’t want to say they got credibility back because they are a good side. You could see when Edinburgh were able to unleash themselves how dangerous they are.”

Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley said: “That is our fifth loss in a row and from a practical point of view, that is not a good statement.

“When Greig Laidlaw came back on [from a controversial sin-binning for deliberately knocking the ball out of play], our guys grew in confidence and Munster perhaps felt it was not going to be their day in terms of the bonus point, (so) we got two good tries which was nice to see.

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“Our key issues were discipline and shape, attack and defence, play in the right areas and grow into the game.

“The Munster scrum is going to be strong no matter what [but] the interpretation of the referee ... we had no idea what they were doing on the loose head side in terms of their engagement.

“Last week against Leinster, we had parity and they have caused Munster [scrum] issues, so it is down to interpretation and I am not going to concede straightaway.”

Edinburgh, for whom Matt Scott did Six Nations prospects no harm in the centre, showed much more fight than of late and but for those scrum penalties would have turned around level and heartened by a fierce period of pressure on the 
Munster line.

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Alas the raid ended with a turnover when it seemed 
Munster ought to have been 
penalised at a ruck, but the match was undoubtedly won and lost in the third quarter.

Dave Kilcoyne was first to be yellow carded for Munster but he was soon followed by Laidlaw and when Edinburgh infringed at a scrum the ref hastily signalled a penalty try

Ronan O’Gara converted as he did when Conor Murray slipped over, but Edinburgh, to their credit, rallied.

Like buses, their two decent tries from Fife came along together after a wait lasting well over 400 minutes of Euro action and that was enough to raise spirits, but, in this season of woe, any cause for celebration has to be acknowledged.

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Scorers: Edinburgh: Tries: Fife (2). Conversions: Laidlaw (2). Penalty: Laidlaw.

Munster: Tries: Penalty try, Murray. Conversions: O’Gara (2). Penalties: O’Gara (4)

Edinburgh: Tonks, Fife, Cairn (Atiga, 54), Scott, T Visser. Laidlaw. captain, Rees, Hislop (Allan, 70), Lawrie (Titterrell 49), Nel (Cross, 70), Gilchrist (Talei, 70),, Cox, McInally, Denton, Basilaia (Grant, 40).

Munster: Jones, Howlett, captain, Earls, Downey, Zebo, O’Gara (Keatley, 64), Murray (Williams, 67), Kilcoyne, Varley, Botha, O’Callaghan (Holland, 69), Ryan, O’Mahony, Coughlan (Butler, 64), O’Donnell.

Referee: J Gasnier (France).