Derby matchwinner Chris Dean believes Saturday’s last-gasp 18-17 win over Glasgow in the opening 1872 Cup match was the perfect demonstration that new coach Richard Cockerill has instilled some “backbone” in what has been a notoriously brittle Edinburgh side.
Replacement centre Dean ghosted in at the right corner off the back of a maul in the last play of the match to seal a remarkable comeback win for a team who played 74 minutes of the game with 14 men after prop Simon Berghan’s early red card for a boot to the head of Warriors hooker Fraser Brown.
“That game shows we have grown as a club and created a character about us,” said Dean. “Cockers said at half-time, he didn’t really care about the result ... well, up to a point I guess ... and just wanted to see the backbone we have created.
“He just wanted to see how strong that character and backbone we had been building on for the last 12 to 15 weeks and we did that with that performance and win.”
After a couple of days off at Christmas, Edinburgh were back in at 8am for training this morning and the 23-year-old is expecting a swift end to the season of festive cheer as the coach prepares his troops for Saturday’s return trip to Scotstoun, where a win would secure them a third 1872 Cup in four years.
“He [Cockerill] runs a hard regime. Our standards are up there now,” said Dean. “There is no slacking allowed. We have all bought into it. That is where the backbone is growing. We are not the finished article but we will keep working as hard as we can.
“We only have a couple of days off then back in on Boxing Day training for the 30th. We will come in with a spring in our step but Cockers will bring us back down to earth and give us a reality check. We have a big game on the 30th because Glasgow will come firing, we all know that.”
After a game of low quality but high drama, Dean was still processing exactly how his vital score had come about as Glasgow seemed to switch off as Edinburgh rumbled towards their line, perhaps believing a penalty had been awarded to them rather than the home side, who then had advantage.
“There was a bit of ambiguity actually,” recalled Dean. “I was looking at Lee Jones when the advantage was given and he almost switched off and then I thought to myself, ‘I’ll go for it anyway.’
“I did not know I had scored myself. I looked at the ref [Irishman Frank Murphy] running over to give it and we were all pretty excited we had done it. It had been a long time since I had been at the back of a ruck!
“I had joined the maul and [sub hooker] Neil Cochrane had it at the time. He was saying ‘take it, take’ and I took it. I had been eyeing up an opportunity to go before but advantage was given and luckily they switched off and made it easier.”
Despite leaking an early Huw Jones try and then the red card, Edinburgh showed admirable spirit to stay in the game, undoubtedly assisted by what was a fairly abject display from the visitors.
Lock Scott Cummings seemed to have struck a crucial blow when his try helped open up an 11-point gap in the second half, but scrum-half Nathan Fowles snuck over from the back of drive and fellow replacement Dean repeated the trick to send the majority of the record 23,883 crowd off happily to their Christmas celebrations.
A forlorn Berghan had taken his place on the bench next to Dean after his early transgression, but the centre revealed not many words were exchanged.
“No, he is an international rugby player, he knows what happened and understands the consequences,” said Dean. “He was pretty upset with himself but that is what you learn from and build on. We were never going to hold that against him regardless what the score would have been.
“We are a team and things like that happened. I like to think if we were on the other side of that score we would not have looked on that as an excuse.
“It is not a perfect situation to lose a man to a red card five minutes into a game. The whole stadium had a bit of doubt and that Glasgow on their current form would have taken advantage of that.
“Credit to the 14 guys who were on the field at the time and for most of the game. They stuck it out, gritted themselves and put in a fantastic performance well above everybody’s expectations.
“Dressingroom-wise, we were not whooping and cheering. We were really pleased with what we have done. But it is just a start and we are no means the end product.”