RICHARD Cockerill had said before this second 1872 Cup match of the season that the outcome would tell him “exactly where we are in our development as a team”. The head coach knows now, all right: although far from the finished article, his Edinburgh team are making significant progress in just about every area of the game.
The Cup itself is no more than a symptom of that progress. Their 16-8 win over Glasgow following up on last week’s 23-7 home success means that Edinburgh have taken the trophy four times in the last five seasons, so getting the better of their local rivals is not in itself anything new. But the maturity of this performance was an important step up, as the win was achieved not by being plucky underdogs, but by their maintaining their discipline better.
This result was also their first away win in the PRO14 this season, coming just a couple of weeks after they won on the road in Europe for the first time in this campaign, completing the double over Newcastle Falcons. Yes, the season does have a long way to run, but Cockerill has every right to be pleased with his squad’s direction of travel.
“I’m delighted with the performance,” the Edinburgh coach said. “The players deserve the credit. They played really well and deserved to win. It’s a really big step forward in our development as a team.
“Last week was put down to them not executing or whatever, and lots of things were said about how boring we were. But we’ve come here, played all the rugby and were the better side.
“Glasgow are a really good side who we respect immensely. It was a really good test for us coming here. They knew what was coming, we knew what was coming from them, and to be fair, we controlled the game pretty much from start to finish.
“We knew that if we played how we played and brought the same mentality as last week, it’s hard to play against us. We knew they would come out firing, but when we play our game and play it to the best of our ability, we’re tough to break down and that’s what we were tonight.
“In the bigger picture, the 1872 Cup element is irrelevant. We needed the points more than anything else because we haven’t been good enough in other parts of our season. But the last four weeks have proved that if we get the right people on the field and have the right mentality, we can win big games.”While genuinely pleased by how his players had performed, Cockerill would not be Cockerill without a grievance to nurse, and his complaint this time was that Edinburgh had not been accorded sufficient credit for winning at home seven days earlier. A lot of the talk last week was around whether it was a fluke: did they turn up?, do they not like Murrayfield?, was it that they just didn’t execute?
“I hear all the excuses, and I want Edinburgh to take the credit, the players to take the credit. Last week we were talked down. It was all about how poorly Glasgow executed, when it was actually about how well we played.
“Love or hate us, we play how we play and there are two sides that have won here this season, us and Saracens. That’s pretty good company to keep.
“We don’t play better or worse [than Glasgow]; it’s just different,” the coach continued when asked about his team’s reliance on their superiority up front to win the game. “We’ve got a good pack, we work hard at it, so why wouldn’t you use it as a weapon? It makes sense: if you find a weakness, keep going at the weakness. Simple as that.
“Their pack has been talked up a lot, so have some of their recruits in that front five, but we were better tonight. This pack hasn’t been as dominant against this team before, has it? We work hard at it, and you have to earn the right to do it. You can’t just turn up and expect dominance.”
For his part, Dave Rennie accepted that his team simply had not made enough of the chances they had to get into a match in which they were never ahead. “It was pretty similar to last week wasn’t it?,” the Warriors coach said. “They gave us a lot of ball and we weren’t sharp enough with it.
“We have to create opportunities better than we did tonight and we have to be more clinical. It was our hallmark up to a couple of weeks ago. It’s disappointing, but I’m not going to panic.
“We just weren’t accurate enough. Turned over so much pill quickly, a couple of elements of discipline early on that gave them field position. We couldn’t turn any possession into pressure. We weren’t good enough tonight.”
Over the course of the season so far, the Warriors have been good enough to hold on to the lead in Conference A, and Rennie is not about to over-react to a couple of poor performances. “Ah, look, it’s a long season. We’re really disappointed by the last couple of weeks. It’s not terminal, it doesn’t define us, but we’ve got to be better.
“It’s difficult to be on top of your game for 11 months over here. So we will assess things but you have to hang on to the pill to build some pressure and we weren’t able to do that. Even when we got down their end, carries weren’t good enough; we didn’t get enough quicker ball and we didn’t get enough go forward. Credit to them, they defended well down that end, but we didn’t make them work too hard for their points.”
Rennie will probably have to wait a couple of days before finding out who is fit for next weekend’s league game away to Benetton. The injury list from this game includes Stuart Hogg, who took a knock around the groin or hip, and Alex Dunbar, who hurt a leg. Hogg would likely be rested in any case because of the international protocol.