Alan Solomons bemoans Edinburgh’s ‘crazy’ start

Alan Solomons has been troubled by refereeing decisions and injuries this season. Picture: SNS

Alan Solomons has been troubled by refereeing decisions and injuries this season. Picture: SNS

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ALAN Solomons went all Patsy Cline on the rugby press yesterday as he lamented the lack of cutting edge in the Edinburgh backline during a difficult start to the season, which has seen his side manage just one win and one draw in five outings.

The South African coach reckons he has been driven ‘crazy’ by the absence through injury of key men Matt Scott and Dougie Fife and believes that, when they are fully fit again, the attacking verve they bring to the team could be crucial in instigating a significant change in fortunes.

“That’s where we miss Matt like crazy, we miss his explosivity in the back-line, he is critical to us. And that’s where we missed Dougie like crazy. We’ve missed those two like crazy,” said the 64-year-old.

Solomons is not expecting Scott to return to the fold until the start of December, but Fife will line-up on the right wing for this afternoon’s clash against the Dragons at BT Murrayfield. The big winger has been missing since injuring his knee on the opening weekend of the season and his return has not come a moment too soon for a team which has managed only five tries – fewer than any other team in the league – in five outings.

Solomons has also been able to recall loose-head prop Alasdair Dickinson after injury forced him to sit out last weekend’s 30-0 defeat to Ulster in Belfast, and he expects to have back-rower Dave Denton available to sit on the bench against Lyon in the Challenge Cup in two weeks’ time.

“I think we’ve got decent strength in depth here,” Solomons added, “but we need to be at full strength when we play these sides. We don’t have Matt Scott and we don’t have Dave Denton, and we didn’t have Ali Dickinson and we didn’t have Dougie Fife last week but they are back for this game and that will help us,”

Solomons is also encouraged by the recent appointment of Englishman Ed Morrison as an independent refereeing commissioner for the Guinness Pro12. A recurring theme for the coach in recent weeks as he has sought to position his team’s failings in a favourable context has been his belief that they have been harshly dealt with by the match officials.

After Edinburgh slumped to a 14-13 home loss to Connacht, Solomons expressed his exasperation at the way rookie Irish referee Gary Conway managed the scrum; and he has also made his disgruntlement clear about two decisions during last week’s loss to Ulster, which he accepts did not change the ultimate result of the match but did, in his opinion, mean that the final score did not do his team justice.

“It [the appointment of Morrison] is the most fantastic thing because I’ve had my concerns. We’ve gone through the protocols and made our points, and it’s been positive in the sense that officials have put up their hands when they’ve made errors, but it’s tough because it’s gone by then,” he said.

“Having someone independent makes a big difference. It’s a very positive thing and the competition organisers need to be commended. It’s a competition which is going very much in the right direction with Guinness and Sky coming on board, and now I’m personally delighted with Ed’s appointment.”

There is little doubt that Solomons has a point on the specific incidents he has outlined, but it is hard to accept the suggestion that these have been crucial factors in the way the games have gone. Edinburgh didn’t deserve to win any of their lost matches, and all this talk of injured players and bad refereeing calls has only served to create an impression that an excuse culture is being cultivated at the club.

With the exception of their shock victory over once mighty Munster on the opening weekend of the season, there has been nothing inspiring about Edinburgh’s play this year. Their achievement in battling back from 17-3 down to salvage a 20-20 draw at home to the Scarlets a fortnight ago might, as Solomons insists, point to a team with a commendable fighting spirit, but we shouldn’t forget that they were greatly assisted in that match by the profligacy of the Welshmen, especially in the first half when they squandered two clear-cut try scoring opportunities and turned down three kickable penalties.

Edinburgh are in a desperate need of a performance and a result which will reinvigorate the players and, just as importantly, galvanise their long suffering supporters. There is still plenty of time to turn this season around and Solomons is taking encouragement from some of the upsets already witnessed in the league so far.

“We are at game six, and there are 22 games, so it is a bit too early to be assuming anything,” he pointed out. “Munster might have had 14 men and didn’t play their top side, but Zebre got a victory against them which nobody expected. You certainly didn’t expect Connacht to beat Leinster, which they did. So the competition is quite strong.

“I said at the beginning of the season that the first four to six weeks were going to be very difficult because I knew that we didn’t have a lot of our players available. And we have had some tough games playing leading sides Munster, Ospreys and Ulster away from home, who have all invariably been involved in the semi-finals.”

“As far as this game is concerned, we need to play the way we did against the Scarlets, the way we played against Munster and the way we played [in the pre-season match] against Leicester. The rest will follow.”

EDINBURGH

15 G Tonks

14 D Fife

13 S Beard

12 A Strauss

11 T Visser

10 T Heathcote

9 S Kennedy

1 A Dickinson.

2 R Ford

3 J Andress

4 A Bresler

5 G Gilchrist

6 M Coman (c)

7 H Watson

8 C du Preez

Subs

16 J Hiltebrand

17 A Dell

18 W Nel

19 O Atkins

20 T Leonardi

21 S Hidalgo-Clyne 22 P Burgleigh

23 J Cuthbert

DRAGONS

15 L Byrne (c)

14 M Pewtner

13 T Prydie

12 A Smith

11 H Amos

10 J Tovey

9 J Evans

1 B Stankovich

2 E Dee

3 D Way

4 A Coombs

5 R Landman

6 L Evans

7 N Cudd

8 A Powell

Subs

16 T Rhys Thomas, 17 H Gustafson

18 L Fairbrother

19 I Gough

20 J Thomas

21 R Rees

22 A O’Brien

23 A Brew

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