John Hardie: Edinburgh have no excuses for Euro exit

John Hardie
John Hardie
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Scotland flanker John Hardie is confident his team-mates can bounce back from the crushing disappointment of being eliminated from the European Challenge Cup after a late collapse in Grenoble at the weekend.

His side were leading with just a few minutes to go but two costly blunders saw the French not just overtake Edinburgh but go on to deny them the losing bonus point they needed to get to the knockout stage.

“We are usually good at closing out games, that is usually one of our strengths,” he said as the team started the trip back to Scotland. “It is disappointing but we are going to have to go back and have a look at the game and really pick what went wrong and put it right for the PRO12.

“You look to the bright side, it is in the past and now we look through the tape, see where we went wrong and see where we can improve. There are no excuses. I thought we had enough to win but we didn’t; we have to take our lessons.”

The issue for Edinburgh was that they started the final minutes not only leading but looking like the side more likely to score. A couple of breaks from Damien Hoyland, the wing, some good crash ball from Matt Scott, and some good link play that put Michael Allen past the first line of defence all looked promising.

They looked like a side heading not just to the quarter-finals but going there with a home draw.

The handful of Scots supporters who had travelled to France for the game should have known better than to relax however. All game, the Edinburgh players had been undoing too much of their good work with crass mistakes and it was probably a bit too much to hope that they could see out the final ten minutes without another dose of butter-fingers.

A knock-on in midfield gave Grenoble the chance to turn defence into attack, and with Edinburgh having already given away a penalty, Jonathan Wisniewski, the fly half, belted the ball high in the air near the visitors’ posts more in hope than expectation.

It could not have worked better. Edinburgh made a mess of catching it and Gio Aplon, the South African full back, was the quickest to react as he latched onto the ball to give his side the lead.

Even then Edinburgh were in the quarter-finals, probably away at Harlequins and facing a date with Tim Visser, their former star wing, but their kamikaze tendencies still had another trick to play.

Grenoble were obviously happy just to be ahead and didn’t really care about whether or not Edinburgh got the bonus point, but when a straightforward kick downfield was guddled, there was no way Aplon was going to refuse the gift presented to him as the ball rebounded into his hands.

“In that first half we knew we didn’t play out best footie but we were still in the hunt, we were still in the lead by four points,” said Hardie.

“In the second half, they took their opportunities well and really put us to bed in the last 20 minutes. It just shows when you make mistakes like that, it can really cost you.

“The Scotland players are going away to camp this week so it is really disappointing to leave the team having been knocked out of the European Challenge Cup, which was one of our goals for the season. That’s rugby, we have to take it on the chin. The fact is that we did not play well enough and made costly mistakes.”

What was particularly galling was that results elsewhere had worked in Edinburgh’s favour. Playing last in the final set of pool games meant they knew going into the match that a win would give them top spot in the pool and a home quarter-final, but that they had the luxury of knowing that even a defeat would not be fatal as long as they got a bonus point and finished second in the pool.

So they were justifiably furious that they put themselves in a position to get there, and then blew it. As Hardie said – no excuses.

Grenoble: Tries: Heguy. Aplon 2. Cons: Wisniewski 2. Pens: Wisniewski 5

Edinburgh: Tries: Hardie, Helu. Cons: Hidalgo-Clyne 2. Pens: Hidalgo-Clyne 3

Grenoble: G Aplon; X Mignot, C Farrell, N Hunt (F Gengenbacher, 68), D Kilioni; J Wisniewski, C McLeod; F Barcella (S Taumalolo, 18), A Heguy, D Edwards (R de Klerk, 41), B Hand (C) (J Percival, 30), P Kimlin , H Vanderglas, M Diaby (F Alexandre, 47), R Grice

Edinburgh: G Tonks; D Hoyland, M Allen, M Scott, W Helu; P Burleigh (D Fife, 71), S Hidalgo-Clyne; A Dickinson (A Dell, 77), R Ford (N Cochrane, 65), WP Nel (S Berghan, 65), A Bresler (A Toolis, 7), B Toolis, M Coman (C), J Hardie (H Watson, 60), C Du Preez

Referee: G Garner (England)

Attendance: 10,072