It was almost a throwaway remark, but a claim by Chris Paterson on behalf of his Edinburgh Rugby team that he “would take a 0-0 draw” at Racing Metro tonight in the Heineken European Cup is worth closer examination.
Sitting top of the group alongside Cardiff on 13 points, the Scots would receive two points for a scoreless draw, and a home win – with or without a try bonus – in the concluding match against London Irish on Sunday week at Murrayfield would probably be sufficient to guarantee knockout European competition, either in the second-tier Amlin Trophy or even the main event itself.
Would Edinburgh settle for that in a season of transition with up to half a dozen newcomers blooded to this competition?
It is important to state that Scotland cap record holder Paterson made his 0-0 comment with a hint of irony considering the teams’ remarkable scoring spree which ended 48-47 to Edinburgh in the reverse fixture in November, but with Edinburgh having only had three draws in an 87-game competition history, the chances are remote.
More likely, Edinburgh will shun any containing tactics fuelled by memories of what can happen if defensive lapses occur against free-flowing Frenchmen and put emphasis on attacking flair, not least because no group leader has conceded more than their seven tries in this competition.
Paterson, who looked on from the stand nursing a groin strain during that remarkable fixture, said: “There are so many ways of looking at the first match and the one that sticks out is the attitude and commitment shown from 24 points down.
“At that point, if Racing had scored again, it could have been carnage – 60 or so points against.
“With the right attitude in the crucial period our game clicked and we came out on top by a ridiculous scoreline. It was a fantastic effort.”
Warning of a backlash, Paterson said: “They will remember the game as well as we do. Hopefully we can score as many points, which would be pretty difficult away from home, and concede a lot fewer.”
While Edinburgh have thoughts of trailing clouds of glory, Racing are virtually certain to bow out in the group stage.
According to Paterson, that makes the Parisians more threatening.
“They are always dangerous because they are professional sportsmen. Whether they can qualify or not, they are pros and mostly internationalists playing for a jersey,” he said.
“They will be hurting from losing the first game. They had a great win away at London Irish and they will still believe they have a chance to go through and will be targeting this game.
“The big danger is in picking one or two of them out as key threats because there is so much quality. Their players are so comfortable at this level and the way they played at Murrayfield was some of the best rugby I have ever seen, particularly playing the ball before contact, with the front row phenomenal in that respect.
“There’s no point in picking out perceived big-game players because the entire Racing squad can deliver.”
No Edinburgh player has appeared more often in Europe than Paterson, although his 66 outings are equalled by prop Allan Jacobsen.
Drawing on that experience, he said: “As often as not there are wee turning points and one of them might have been when a last-gasp drop goal attempt by Racing to win the game at Murrayfield was missed.
“I’ve always said key was picking up something away and our home win over Racing ensured success at London Irish wasn’t in vain.
“But all that is history. What’s important is the final two games.”