IF GOOD teams don’t become bad ones overnight, it is equally true that bad teams don’t suddenly become world beaters and that is undoubtedly true of Edinburgh.
It will take years for the capital club to punch their true weight because this lot looked horribly like a 1970s advert for washing powder. The new “improved” brand looks remarkably similar to the old stuff.
At the risk of sounding like John Major, when things are not going right for a team they have to go back to basics. Set-piece completion, solid defence and minimise unnecessary mistakes, give the opposition nothing, make them earn their points.
After an encouraging pair of pre-season matches, including a victory over Newcastle, there were hopes that Edinburgh were beginning to turn the corner but at Musgrove Park they failed on just about every count with the possible exception of the set piece where the visitors held the whip hand in the scrum. Even then Munster still managed to steal one against the head. Big hookers find it hard to hook and we’ll see more steals as the specialist skill returns to favour.
Edinburgh’s defence should be the foundation stone of their entire game plan. Instead, it remains a comedy of errors, only not so amusing for Alan Solomons and his defensive guru Omar Mouneimne who is going to earn his corn the hard way this season. Munster scored five tries and barely broke sweat for any of them but this side is not blessed with attacking genius – they are blessed with players who take the right option at the right time and execute with reasonable accuracy.
If only the same were true of Edinburgh. Nick de Luca is the most frustrating player in Scottish rugby simply because he combines the sublime with the substandard too often for a player of his experience. The centre scored a peach of a second-half try but not before he had been turned inside out by Munster stand-off Ian Keatley’s run for Munster’s first try. Who needs Ronan O’Gara? Munster could have fielded Ronan Keating and the result would have been much the same.
Edinburgh failed the first rule of rugby… be hard to beat. They also broke the second rule… get the defence sorted (which is basically rule number one put a different way). Muster didn’t break Edinburgh’s defence, they were given an escort to the try line almost every time.
Edinburgh’s poor decisions also helped facilitate Munster’s second try when Lee Jones was caught betwixt and between defending the grubber and then jogged back when a sprint might have saved the day. The same man then tackled a Munsterman in the air and was correctly sent to the sin bin. He finished off his second-half try superbly well but only after the match was dead and buried.
Munster never give a sucker an even break and the home team had their third try after several pick and drives by the big men sent prop James Cronin into a one on one with Edinburgh stand-off Piers Francis.
The match was still alive at half time when Munster led 22-6 and De Luca’s score gave Edinburgh brief hope of salvaging something but all that was forgotten as Munster scored tries four and five.
On the plus side, flanker Roddy Grant remains a work horse, South African prop WP Nel got the squeeze on his man once or twice and Lewis Niven did pretty well on the loosehead considering he is tighthead by training. Dougie Fife also picked a superb line off his right wing to break the Munster defence in the first half. And then he slipped. You might view that as bad luck but it wasn’t. It was another example of bad judgment because Fife was wearing the wrong boots.
During an interview that was aired on BBC Alba at half time, Solomons declared that he enjoys a challenge. He needs to. The coach’s first task is to breathe some spirit and self-belief into his team.