Edinburgh revel in proudest moment but Cockerill warns: We've won nothing yet
Edinburgh's players will be back at the grind today after a day basking in the glow of one the finest hours in the club's history.
There could, in fact, be an argument to be made that this was their greatest ever win. The home quarter-final victory over Toulouse in 2012 took them to the rarefied heights of a Heineken Cup semi-final, but to become the first Scottish team to win at the Stade Mayol, the fortress of three-time champions Toulon, and only the third team ever to win there in Europe, takes some topping.
But top it they must when Vern Cotter returns to BT Murrayfield with a Montpellier team swaggering from a 45-8 thrashing of Newcastle Falcons which has them just three points behind Richard Cockerill’s Pool 5 toppers.
Cockerill is braced for another clash with a “rockstar” team, although, after six straight wins, Edinburgh are moving from support act to something close to equal billing.
On Friday night the Scots will have home advantage and, you’d like to hope a bumper crowd on their side, but the “rockstars” rolling into town this week offer a much different test to that provided by the cashed-up Mediterranean playboys, Toulon.
The build-up talk of the collective getting the better of individuals bore fruit spectacularly on Saturday evening as Edinburgh showed the grit, character and poise that has characterised their resurgence under the former England hooker.
Cotter will return to the stadium where he gave a tearful farewell to Scotland supporters after the 2017 Six Nations win over Italy, with a squad that contains as many superstar names but, crucially, everything to play for and a completely different mindset.
“Humility, hard work and the team first” was how the Kiwi described his philosophy last week and those are not attributes you could attach to troubled Toulon at present.
The French got off to the flying start you worried could lead to them suddenly deciding they might just be in the mood and go on to overpower the visitors but Edinburgh showed resilience after early jitters to bite back with enough snap to prick Toulon’s fragile confidence.
Tries from Guilhem Guirado and Facundo Isa gave the hosts a 12-8 lead, with Edinburgh wing Darcy Graham’s fine try and a penalty from Jaco van der Walt keeping them in touch at half-time.
After the break Cockerill’s side were simply magnificent and, for all their star power and mighty budget, the French side had simply no answer to Edinburgh’s togetherness, collective will and ruthless finishing.
Blair Kinghorn crashed over to put the Scots ahead and the killer blow was struck in the 64th minute when Bill Mata’s delicious offload sent centre James Johnstone haring under the posts.
Toulon got a consolation score through Julian Savea but the 3-3 trycount belied what was, in truth, an emphatic win for Edinburgh.
“We need to make sure we don’t get ahead of ourselves but to come here and win is big for us,” Cockerill said.
“We were too good for them which is credit to us. On Friday we need to get it right. If we win, we potentially get a home quarter-final and then that gives you the best chance to progress.
“We’ve earned the right to play at home, so why would you want to let that opportunity slip? So we’re going to enjoy the evening, come back in on Monday, work hard and try and do the same thing next week.”
Before Montpellier come calling the Scotland Six Nations squad will be announced on Wednesday, and there is likely to be more Edinburgh players in the frame for the tournament than there has been for many years.
The Edinburgh pack remains the foundation rock but with a winger, full-back and centre providing the tries on Saturday it shows that there is more to this team than grunt.
“The attack is the last thing to come and we’re slowly getting better,” Cockerill said. “You can only take attacking opportunities when they arise and we did that really well tonight, but the basics of our game across the 80 minutes were really good.
“I’m delighted for the players because they’ve worked hard and fronted up and we’ve given ourselves the best chance to qualify for the quarter-finals, which is huge for us. However, Montpellier will come with a rockstar team. Our togetherness and the sum of our parts have got to be better than their individuals again.”