John Barclay offers withering assessment of Edinburgh Rugby's “abject” form after fourth defeat in a row

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Edinburgh Rugby’s second half of the season has been described as “abject” by former Scotland international forward John Barclay after an eighth loss in nine URC matches.

Mike Blair’s team will end the season with two dead rubbers in the United Rugby Championship after a crushing 41-26 defeat away to Connacht which ends any prospect of qualifying for the quarter-finals.

Edinburgh are away to Leicester Tigers in a European Champions Cup last-16 clash at Welford Road on Friday night, but their URC campaign is now over with two matches still to play – at home to Ospreys and away to Ulster in April.

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The Scots, 13th in the table going into the match in the west of Ireland, needed a victory to keep their top-eight hopes alive. But they found in-form Connacht a nut far too tough to crack. The home side played with 13 men for a period after two yellow cards, but Edinburgh failed to capitalise and a hat-trick from scrum-half and man-of-the-match Caolin Blade was the highlight of the home team’s emphatic seven-try victory.

Edinburgh Rugby head coach Mike Blair is standing down at the end of the seasonEdinburgh Rugby head coach Mike Blair is standing down at the end of the season
Edinburgh Rugby head coach Mike Blair is standing down at the end of the season

Edinburgh did pick up a bonus point thanks to an opportunistic score from Blair Kinghorn three minutes from time, adding to earlier touchdowns by Lee-Roy Atalifo, Bill Mata and Glen Young. But the visitors had already been blown away by then. “The frustration is that Connacht didn’t have to work too hard for it,” said Barclay. “Most of it was given to them on a plate.”

Three times in the first half, the visitors went for the corner and tried to maul their way over the line rather than take a penalty kick at goal. The decision backfired each time. Just when the visitors were beginning to apply some pressure before half time, Blade picked off Blair Kinghorn’s pass to on his own 22 to run the length of the pitch and score Connacht's third try.

Edinburgh had to play with a man down for ten minutes after full-back Emiliano Boffelli was yellow carded for a reckless jump without competing for the ball early in the second half. Jarrad Butler then burst through some a soft Edinburgh defence to end the game as a contest, even though there was a brief fightback when Mata and Young both went over. Connacht were never really in danger.

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Their fifth straight league win amounts to their longest unbeaten run since the 2015/16 season. In contrast, the defeat in Galway was Edinburgh’s fourth in a row in all competitions. Blair, who is standing down at the end of the season, had new rugby ‘consultant’ Steve Diamond in the dugout to assist him for the first time. The former Sale director rugby has his work cut out to turn things round for Friday’s trip down south to take on a team currently third in the English Premiership.

“It’s been a pretty abject second half of the season,” added Barclay. “That game was typical of them this season. In the game for large parts, had enough ball to do well, playing against 13 men, but just too many errors in their game. The teams they have conceded 40 plus against, Leinster, Munster Connacht … the Irish teams seem to have it too easy against Edinburgh.

“Their biggest failing at the moment is that they are not able to exert pressure on opposition teams for sustained periods. That period against 13 men was a prime example. Connacht looked totally at ease defensively. There is various way to exert pressure. At the moment he only people Edinburgh are exerting pressure on is themselves.”