Gilchristreturn on ly ray oflight on gloom y n ight for Edin b urgh
CHAMPIONS know how to squeeze out results. The evidence of this game is that it is going to be quite a while before Edinburgh reach that peak. It is not just that this side is going to be broken up, with Grant Gilchrist, the vice-captain, the latest to be linked with a big-money move away – according to the French media, he is off to Toulon. But even with him on the park for the final quarter, his side did not look like sneezing out the result they needed.
They had gone into the game ahead of their Welsh opponents, but could not sustain the quality of their play throughout the 80 minutes as the Welsh side took control of the game, while the Scots gave away a string of penalties in the second half to hand over the result.
“We did really well in the first half,” said Alan Solomons, the head coach afterwards. “We had two penalties which should have gone [over], but unfortunately did not. At half-time, after dominating possession and territory, we landed up going into the shed at 13-all.
“Then, in the second half, our discipline was poor, the penalty count has cost us and then the turning point of the game was a yellow card against Neil Cochrane [the Edinburgh captain and hooker]. When they had a yellow card, we could not make it pay, but they certainly did when they had the advantage.
“The penalties were massive in the game, massive, and we only had ourselves to blame for that.”
For all that, probably the most significant moment of the game from a national point of view came in the 55th minute, when Gilchrist came off the bench to end four and a half months of misery after tearing a groin muscle in Scotland’s opening game of the World Cup.
Whether a little more than a quarter of a game is enough to put him in contention immediately is doubtful, but he has a chance to get himself match-fit before the end of the RBS Six Nations Championship and Vern Cotter, the Scotland coach, rates him highly.
“It is good that he is back,” said Solomons afterwards.
“He is obviously still a bit ring-rusty, but it was really good to see him back and playing. I think he made a good fist of it tonight, but he needs game time under his belt. He needs to play. He is fine after the game, and that will have done wonders for his confidence.”
What he will find harder to work out is how the team were trailing when he did comeon.Thescrumhadbeenincomplete control, with early set-piece penalties putting them in range of the posts for Greig Tonks to nudge them ahead.
Already, though, there were also signs of their self-destruct button, as they conceded the levelling score straight from the kick-off and then Tonks missed his second pot at goal, though he quickly made amends by landing his next shot, only for that too to be cancelled out by Sam Davies.
The try, when it eventually came, showed Edinburgh at their best, with Sam Beard, the centre, stealing the ball in midfield, Tonks making the half break and Alan Dell, the prop, on his shoulder for the offload and a score under the posts.
The Ospreys’ reply, however, was just as good, with Davies showing excellent vision to chip into spaces, Ben Johns, the wing, leaping above Tom Brown, his Edinburgh opposite number to take the ball and offload to Sam Underhill, the flanker, for the score.
Edinburgh did have the chance to get back ahead with Dan Lydiate, the Wales flanker, sent to the sin bin for a no-arms tackle, but instead it was the home side that stepped up the pace a man short to give Davies the chance to edge his side in front again soon after the break.
That seemed to suck the confidence from Edinburgh, whose breakdown work got sloppier and sloppier, handing Davies two more shots at goal before Sam Otten, the home replacement hooker, took full advantage of the Scots sin bin by rumbling over for a late try that made the score look a lot more comfortable than the game had really been. The fact is, though, that they have to learn how to win games like this if
they are to be play-off contenders.
D Evans; J Hassler, J Engelbrecht (J Matavesi, 52), O Watkin, B John; S Davies, B Leonard (C) (T Habberfield, 67); N Smith (G Thomas, 47), S Parry (S Otten, 49), M Fia (A Jarvis, 41), J King, R Thornton, D Lydiate (sin bin: 37-47, R Bernardo, 73), S Underhill (O Cracknell, 41), D Baker,
G Tonks (B Kinghorn, 77); D Fife, M Allen, S Beard (C Dean, 77), T Brown; P Burleigh, S Kennedy (S Hidalgo-Clyne, 55); A Dell (G Sheills, 63), N Cochrane (C) (sin bin: 65-75), J Andress (S Berghan, 51), A Bresler (G Gilchrist, 55), B Toolis, J Ritchie (M Bradbury, 62), H Watson (G Turner, 68-75), C Du Preez. M Mitrea (Italy).
TOUGH TO TAKE: Ben Toolis of Edinburgh, left, who were outclassed by Ospreys in a dismal second half in Wales