“No excuses, we did it to ourselves.” Alan Solomons, the Edinburgh head coach was in no mood for hard-luck stories as he looked back over the shambles of the final ten minutes of their last European Challenge Cup game of the season and wondered how his team had managed to surrender 15 points and with them the chance of a place in the knockout stage of the tournament.
Edinburgh had gone into the game with two goals. A win would earn a home quarter-final. If they lost, they needed to keep it tight, make sure they banked the losing bonus point and, thanks to earlier results, they would at least still be involved when the tournament resumes in April.
Not this time, and it was not a question of running out of luck but a case of making mistakes that they allowed to hurt them.
“We turned over too much ball by making too many errors, we also turned over ball through some silly kicks,” said Solomons. “Some of our exiting [from their half] was very, very poor as well, which cost us. Having said all that, at 23-19, we were winning with ten minutes to go, were attacking midway out, knocked a ball on, they take it up and are in our territory. They were on a penalty when they kicked a high ball and won the aerial contest and score a try to go 26-23 up.”
That turned out to be a decisive moment in the match as Gio Aplon, Grenoble’s South African full-back, grabbed that try and, instead of consolidating and making sure of the losing bonus point, Edinburgh went all out for a win they did not need. The error count, which was already high, went through the roof and a late penalty followed by Aplon’s second try saw the French home.
“We were the authors of our own misfortune through a lot of errors,” said Solomons. “We granted them a lot of possession and they were able to dictate the pattern of play.
“When we had the ball and held it, we made inroads but we made a rod for our own back with the errors we committed. Some of the kicking was poor, allied to that was the poor exiting, but for all that, at 23-19 it was ours to win.”
Edinburgh had scored early through John Hardie and a slightly lucky try for Woll Helu just before half-time. With Sam Hidalgo-Clyne kicking well, and Grenoble making hard work of breaking the Edinburgh defence, that should have been enough.
In the end, though, three gift scores were enough to swing the game the French way and with London Irish winning at Agen with a scoring bonus point, they grabbed the last knockout spot.