Roddy Grant: Edinburgh played a get-out-of-jail-card against Benetton
Edinburgh assistant coach Roddy Grant admits the team's defensive system broke down during Friday's nervy 31-30 home win over Benetton, in which the Italians outscored the hosts five tries to four, but is confident it was merely a 'blip'.
A big factor in the resurgence of Richard Cockerill’s team has been a resolute defence which has turned Edinburgh from pushovers to one of the stuffiest sides to break down in the Guinness Pro14.
Grant concedes that wasn’t the case at BT Murrayfield last week as a Benetton fightback threatened to leave them with red faces, but welcomed the fact they held on for a second win of the season heading into this Friday’s visit of the Cheetahs.
“If you get 30 points against you it is a concern,” said assistant forwards coach Grant. “We were very good in defence last season and this season until now. I suppose it’s the proverbial blip. We’re not too concerned going forward, more of a frustration I guess.”
Asked what went wrong against an admittedly much-improved Benetton side, Grant replied: “There were errors within the system. It is a good system and we have been good at it. When you have a performance like that on that side of the ball everyone has to take stock. Mentally we weren’t quite on it and if you’re not 100 per cent on it you get punished.
“It’s difficult if you have the ball for 20 minutes and then suddenly you’re defending and you get caught off guard. The momentum changes and unless you rein it in the thread can unravel quickly.
“We have trained well today. It’s been a big day, a physical day and we’re hopefully righting wrongs and getting minds right for the weekend. We can’t have that performance again.”
Following the Cheetahs match it’s straight into the daunting Heineken Champions Cup double header away to Montpellier and home to Toulon, but Grant prefers to see Friday’s jitters as a useful prod rather than a cause for alarm.
“Hopefully we will look back on it and think it was a mental wake-up call,” said the former flanker. “It’s clear that we can’t repeat that against the teams we’re going against soon. Against anyone in the Pro14 or in Europe, if you’re not on your game you’re going to run into trouble. It can’t happen again. Hopefully that was one of those get out of jail free cards done and we will move on.
“Anyone you get in Europe will be tough. But it’s equally exciting. Montpellier away and Toulon at home is an awesome first two games from a coaching or playing point if view. You just look at the squads they have. They are stacked with the best players in the world. Unless you’re playing international rugby against the All Blacks, this is the time you get to play players like that.”
Cheetahs, who made the play-offs last season, come into the match bottom of the other Conference A after four defeats and a draw from their first five games, although they have been involved in some exciting high-scoring games, which suggests the Edinburgh defence will be tested out again.
“They’ve had a change in personnel, a lot of their guys have moved to Europe so there are new faces,” said Grant of this week’s opposition. “They’ve played some really good rugby. They’ve been in the games bar that first one at Munster [lost 38-0 away] up until the very end.
“They’ve got the typical big athletic, physical forwards, some really good backs. Franco Smith, the new coach, was at Treviso so he knows the league well. His teams can be unpredictable attacking-wise, Treviso were like that. They’ll get better as it goes on, I guess when they don’t have the Currie Cup as well, they’ll consolidate.”
Former Edinburgh stalwart and Scotland Sevens star Grant, whose main role is to back Cockerill up in drilling the Edinburgh pack, said he has been loving working under the Englishman.
“It’s been great,” said the now 31-year-old, who was forced into retirement by a knee injury three years ago. “Obviously [there is] a lot of things technically with the forwards, scrum, lineout, breakdown. But a big thing I’ve enjoyed and learned a lot is the management of players, and also the vibe of a team.
“I see how good he is at going hard on standards, with the players but also me as a coach. I need to be on my game and if not I’m told, which is great. He’s just very consistent. As a boss that’s what you want.”