IT says a lot about Edinburgh’s determination to improve under new coach Duncan Hodge that despite their record-breaking 59-17 win over Timisoara Saracens in Romania, there was still a faint air of dissatisfaction among the players. It was good, it was satisfying; but was it good enough to beat Harlequins next weekend? Probably not.
Back at BT Murrayfield, in front of their own fans and without the hassle of a 12-hour journey each way to get to the ground, they are confident they can step the performance up again.
“It’s a big game,” agreed Michael Allen, whose second-minute score got the try fest under way. “They hammered Stade [Francais] so it will be a tough one. They have a lot of big players and are a good team so we are going to have to be really on our game next week.”
That said, this game in Romania was literally one for the record books. The biggest win, the most points, the most tries and the most conversions that the club have ever had in a European game, eclipsing the 45-16 European Challenge Cup win over Newport Gwent Dragons a couple of years ago.
So there is a lot to feel positive about though also a feeling that having done all the hard work in the first half, they did take their feet off the gas a bit and, having already shuffled the team about to give rare outings to a number of players, the replacements only disrupted things further.
Until then, it had been a perfect example of how a big, experienced side can put away opponents stuggling to compete with the pace and organisation of a side like Edinburgh.
“We said in the huddle, that was one of those games where there was a lot on the majority of the time,” Allen added. “You do not see that every week and when you do, your eyes light up. You think something is going to happen for you.
“It was the kind of game where we put pressure on and scored through mauls, Stuart [McInally] got three tries, Nasi [Manu] got three and [Viliame] ‘Bill’ Mata got a couple on his debut. Who cares who scores, as long as we get a big win.
“It was probably a good game to try things. They do not have much experience in top-level competition. Don’t take anything away from them, they fought back and they defended hard. They are tough boys and really gave us a run for our money at times – it was just at the end of our fitness our coaching and our team work in general was better.”
It was Allen who got them under way as he finished a move that also gave us the first hints of what Mata is going to bring to the team once he his fully integrated. He ran the perfect line in support of Jason Tovey, the fly half, barged through a couple of tackles and then found the offload to keep the move going. Two passes later and Allen had an easy run-in.
As far as the backs were concerned, that was it. The remaining eight tries all went to forwards, three to captain McInally at the back of mauls, another three to Manu at No.8 – “That’s the first [hat-trick]. I actually haven’t scored in about four years,” he noted wryly – and two to Mata.
“I scored in the second minute and that set the scene for the rest of the first half,” said Allen. “We had an ambition to score early, score a lot of tries and show we can play well. We started very well with me on the end of Rambo’s [McInally’s] offload.
“Whenever you win, everyone is happy. The ambition of the club is where it has always been, to make sure that everything little thing we do is done better. We did that in bits.
“Hodgey [Duncan Hodge, the head coach] talks about how we do not want stand still, we cannot plateau, we need to get better every game. Every day, we do something more than we did before. That is what we are trying to do.” The downside was that, having claimed seven tries and 45 points in the first half, Edinburgh were able to add only two more tries in the second and they did allow Stephen Stennan, the Timisoara wing, to score twice, once in each half including the final score of the game.
It was enough to send the team home happy, but there were enough warning bells that there is no possibility of it generating a sense of complacency as they wait for this season’s first true test of their European pedigree on Saturday when Tim Visser and his Harlequins team-mates come calling.
Timisoara Saracens: Tries: Shennan (2). Cons: Calafeteanu 2. Pen: Calafeteanu.
Edinburgh: Tries: Allen, Mata (2), McInally (3), Manu (3). Cons: Tovey 7.
Timisoara Saracens: C Fercu; F Tangimana (D Vladut Zaharia, 56), B Sefanaia (I Muresan, 48), J Umaga (T Manumua, 53), S Shennan; J Rose, V Calafeteanu; G Militaru (sin bin: 30-40, E Aholelei, 53), E Capatana (A Radoi, 50), H Pungea (S Maris, 55), V Popirlan, M Drenceanu, D Ianus, V Rus, S Stelian Burcea.
Edinburgh: R Scholes; A Northam, S Tofilau, J Rasolea (M Allen, 77), M Allen (G Bryce, 66); J Tovey (B Kinghorn, 66) S Hidalgo-Clyne (N Fowles, 53); A Dell (R Sutherland, 50), S McInally (C) (N Cochrane, 45), M McCallum, F McKenzie, B Toolis (L Carmichael, 53), V Mata (V Fihaki, 53), J Hardie, N Manu.
Referee: I Tempest (England)