Richard Cockerill philosophical after Edinburgh loss – but quality is needed

The problem with success is that you have to keep backing it up and, despite that great run in Europe, Edinburgh have failed to live up to their pre-season promise.

Sunday, 28th April 2019, 9:11 pm
Updated Sunday, 28th April 2019, 9:15 pm
Stuart Hogg begins another Glasgow Warriors attack

Following Saturday’s 34-10 thumping by Glasgow, the season is over and Richard Cockerill’s side will play in Europe’s second competion, the Challenge Cup trophy next season.

Having made a big impact last time, it proved to be a difficult second season for Cockerill who also had to contend with serious injuries to key players John Barclay and Mark Bennett. But, with most of his squad fit, Edinburgh still finished the season tamely with big losses to Ulster and Glasgow. This has to worry the former Leicester man who remained upbeat after Saturday’s defeat.

“There are some points in life where you just have to smile, don’t you?” said the Edinburgh coach after Saturday’s loss.

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“Look, they played very well, they’re a very good team and we looked nowhere near like being in the game. Congratulations to Dave [Rennie] because they were bloody good and they deserved their win.

“We are a side that’s learning to play big games week in and week out and live with different expectations. We’ve gone hard at Europe and hard every week when we’ve played in the league. I don’t think it’s a conscious thing, but the attrition of the season has probably taken its toll on the squad.

“We’ve had lots of guys in the Test team, lots of injuries. We’re just not used to being at the sharp end and we weren’t good enough. We need to keep working on the team, coach the guys better, get guys better and keep building the depth of our squad. It’s as simple as that. We just weren’t good enough.”

That Edinburgh can hit the heights is not in doubt. They stood toe to toe with Munster in that European quarter-final, beat Glasgow twice in December and walloped Toulon 40-14.

By the same token any team that loses to Zebre 24-16 in October, after leading 13-0, surely needs some tweaking, and Cockerill added. “We have the basis of a very good team. We need to keep adding depth to that and keep players improving. It takes time or money; we haven’t got money, so we’ll take time.”

This Warriors squad played with the desperation of men possessed and they were streets ahead of their nearest rivals both in thought and deed. The home side lost the battle for territory and possession but their ability to create scoring chances from thin air meant that they won the try count by 4-1.

Their determination showed up in the stats. Glasgow made 181 tackles compared to just 86 by Edinburgh and yet the Warriors missed far fewer – 17 – compared to the 24 compiled by the visitors.

Several players have mentioned the galvanising effect of that traumatic loss to Saracens in the Champions Cup quarter-final, but Rennie highlighted another turning point.

“When we lost to Treviso [in January] and dropped to second in our pool, we probably knew we had to win every game from there to have a chance of 
getting a home semi,” said the Kiwi. “It put pressure on us and we have made good shifts since the Saracens debacle.”

Glasgow went ahead as early as the second minute, scored their opening try on seven minutes and were never seriously threatened. While the visitors raised a head of steam either side of the break with umpteen penalties, attacking lineouts and pick-and-drives, Glasgow’s defence was outstanding.

Glasgow’s Sam Johnson and Ali Price scored early on and, after the home side had weathered Edinburgh’s fightback, wingers Niko Matawalu and Tommy Seymour added the icing somewhat against the second-half run of play. Adam Hastings kicked 14 points, four conversions and two penalties, without a miss to his name.

Edinburgh’s try was scored by Duhan van der Merwe, converted by Simon Hickey who also kicked a penalty.