EDINBURGH flanker Roddy Grant has called on his team-mates to dust themselves down following Saturday’s bruising 34-3 battering by Irish giants Munster and bounce back in Friday’s huge European semi-final clash.
The Capital outfit were simply blown away by title-chasing Munster, who closed to within two points of leaders Glasgow with three games to go in the regular Guinness PRO12 season.
There was a blow for top-six chasing Edinburgh before the game kicked off when scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne was withdrawn from the line-up with a chest injury – Nathan Fowles coming in at No.9 – and further trouble followed when No.8 David Denton was forced off early with a head knock.
The services of a third Scotland international were denied for a costly spell at the start of the second half when Tim Visser was, perhaps harshly, sin-binned.
It was during those ten minutes that the Irish province, whose driving maul was rampant, ran away with the match, racking up 19 unanswered points. “Just so frustrating and disappointing,” was Grant’s verdict at full-time. “The better team won.
“They played a lot better than us in the key areas I suppose. Obviously the driving maul, we just couldn’t stem it, which is really frustrating. But full credit to them they’re a very good driving side. We knew that coming in which makes it all the more frustrating to give away tries like that. There’s games you just have to take your hat off to the opposition and that was one.”
Grant was adamant that the comprehensive defeat would have no bearing on how the squad approach the build-up to Friday’s European Challenge Cup semi-final against Welsh side Newport Gwent Dragons at BT Murrayfield. “This won’t affect our confidence for this week,” insisted the Botswana-born forward. “The weekend is going to be pretty grim after this loss. We’ll wear it quite badly I think, as you would with any loss even if it’s only by one point.
“But it’s professional sport and we can’t afford to mope around because it’s a huge game this weekend. We’ll look at things. We’ll flush it and then get on to the next one.
“In terms of picking the guys up the easy thing is to say we can play a lot better than that, we’ve shown that lately.
“I’ve no doubt we’ll get back on the horse and come out firing come Friday. A wounded animal is always the most dangerous.”
After a bright opening which yielded a Tom Heathcote penalty which gave them the lead for the only time in the match, little went right for Edinburgh. A brief but fierce bombardment of icy sleet set the tone for a subsequent home performance that provided little to warm the near 5,000 crowd.
Denton departed in the 12th minute after a collision with Ireland skipper Paul O’Connell and Munster began to develop a stranglehold on proceedings.
After stand-off Ian Keatley levelled things with a 20th-minute penalty it became one-way traffic. Hooker Duncan Pacey finished off as the maul rumbled over in the right-hand corner in the 33rd minute and it was the same story on the other side of the interval, this time CJ Stander emerging with the ball.
Following Visser’s yellow carde for infringing at the breakdown, Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray slipped over for a third mauled try as the hosts’ resistance crumbled.
Simon Zebo became Munster’s top tryscorer in the competition in highly dubious fashion following his kick through when the TMO awarded a touchdown despite little evidence that the left wing had got any downward pressure.
In a tight game this would have been a huge talking point but, by now, it was clear there was only one winner and when the right wing Keith Earls took advantage of a grubber that was fumbled by the backtracking Phil Burleigh, we were well beyond the point when, had it been a boxing match, it would have been mercifully stopped.
Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons agreed with Grant that this setback could be shaken off in time for Friday’s Euro blockbuster.
“It doesn’t affect us for next weekend at all,” stressed the South African. “Yes we were compromised by the players we had out, losing Dents in the 12th minute and going down to 14 men. But we’ve got to lift our performance.
“We didn’t do justice to ourselves tonight. But you have to give credit to Munster – the truth is they dominated territory and possession.
“We’ll have to wait for the medical report on Denton, but Mike Coman and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne will definitely be back on Friday.”