Edinburgh captain Grant Gilchrist unimpressed by ‘plucky losers’ tag

While only four points separated Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors in the final league standings and both clubs were eliminated at the quarter-final stage of the United Rugby Championship and the Challenge Cup, a yawning chasm has opened up in the perception of the two teams.

The way Glasgow unravelled in the final games of the season was startling, and their 76-14 defeat by Leinster in Dublin was simply unacceptable. Edinburgh’s exit from the URC later on Saturday was an altogether more edifying affair but their captain, Grant Gilchrist, has no time for the “plucky losers” tag.

In losing 28-17 to Stormers in Cape Town, Mike Blair’s side played with heart and ambition but it wasn’t enough to derail a home side who have all the momentum in this competition. This was their ninth win on the bounce and they will now host Ulster in the semi-finals on Saturday.

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Edinburgh went in at the turn on level terms but lost a bad try after the restart, just as they had done in the opening minutes of the first half.

Emiliano Boffelli takes a high ball under pressure during Edinburgh's 28-17 defeat by Stormers in South Africa. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

While bitterly disappointed to see their campaign end, Gilchrist feels Edinburgh are on the right track under Blair whose first year at the helm has seen the club play with flair and ambition.

“There is a lot for us to build on this season and as a team we believe this is only the start of our journey with new coaching staff but we need to learn to be better on these big occasions,” said the long-serving second row.

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“We’ve shown a lot of progress under new coaches. We’re on a good path but we’ve got stuff to work on, because we’re not here to be plucky losers, qualify for quarter-finals then not win big games.

“We know that in the biggest games we need to find that extra level. But we’ve made big strides this season to make the top eight and qualify for the Champions Cup next year. There are a lot of things to be proud of but there is work to be done, because we are not content to qualify for this game and come out as plucky losers.

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Edinburgh's Luke Crosbie on the attack against Stormers in the United Rugby Championship quarter-final in Cape Town. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)

“That’s not why we train hard, it’s not why we play the game.”

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Warrick Gelant capitalised on an error by Blair Kinghorn to give Stormers an early lead but Dave Cherry’s converted try from a lineout maul drew Edinburgh level at 10-10 after Emiliano Boffelli and Manie Libbok had exchanged penalties.

The hosts pulled away in the second half with scores from Ruhan Nel and Evan Roos but scrum-half Henry Pyrgos brought Edinburgh back to within eight points with a fine try on 56 minutes. The visitors continued to probe for an opening but the Stormers were defensively sound and another Libbok penalty moved them clear.

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“It felt like we did a lot of good things in the game, some great work in the air, put together some good phases, but we weren’t at our very best,” added Gilchrist. “It was an accuracy thing rather than heat or effort. I’m really proud of the way the team fought.

“In both halves we showed fight and spirit, and as captain that’s number one for me. That the team has heart and spirit. That’s uncoachable. I’m proud of that.”