After the kind of week Edinburgh have had, they needed a pick-me-up. They earned it with their record-breaking, ten-try demolition of Krasny Yar in Moscow, the highlight being the proof that they can get by without their suspended players.
Last week had started with the fall-out from revelations that Magnus Bradbury had been told not to turn up for training while the club looked into a late-night incident that left him with a bang on the head. It ended with them announcing that John Hardie, the 16-cap flanker, had also been suspended pending an unrelated investigation.
Everybody out in Moscow with the team was keeping studiously quiet about both cases – “I wish I could talk about it, but I can’t,” summed up the well rehearsed party line – but two players’ troubles are opportunities for two more players.
Into the team came Lewis Carmichael, a lock by pedigree, to take Bradbury’s place in the back row, and Luke Crosbie, asked to switch sides and take Hardie’s place at openside. Both were magnificent, as Richard Cockerill, pictured, happy to talk about anything other than disciplinary matters, pointed out.
“The two back row young lads played very, very well, Cornell [Du Preeez] had a strong game,” he said. “We will take the win. After their win last week, it was a mental test for us and we coped with it well.”
Crosbie was just about the pick of the pair, his brawny physicality causing all sorts of problems for a Russian side who had boasted about the strongman approach that had helped them beat Stade Francais the week before. Carmichael was only just behind him, however, and did demonstrate his athleticism with a 40-metre run-in for the third try after being put into space by Junior Rasolea, the centre.
“That try at the start really set me up,” he acknowledged. “I was trying to get my hands on the ball as much as I could and getting the try helped to get me into the game so that I could enjoy myself. It was good running rugby today and the boys scored a lot of tries.
“It was a tough place to come, there was the travel and all that plus they had a good win last week over Stade Francais. We were coming into it really focused. We had a good first half and that gave us licence to play in the second half.”
The 22-year-old is in his second season with the club, where he has been used entirely as a lock. It was also in that role that he featured when sent on loan to play for Western Force in Perth, Australia – a spell that he credits with helping develop the athletic, running side of his game.
“It was good experience, it was just good rugby, a different brand of rugby,” he said. “I thought my time out there was really valuable in bringing me on and developing me as a player. It was really good for me, a lot of running rugby and all that so that helps when I am playing in the back row. I am used to getting into space. I absolutely loved my time in Australia but now I am looking forward to progressing the rest of my career and season with Edinburgh.”
With those two slotting in so effectively alongside Du Preez, Edinburgh had much the better of the running game so that the tries kept flowing even after the loss of Jason Tovey at stand-off disrupted the fluency of the back play. The backs had played a part in the three tries before he went off, including Carmichael’s run-in, which followed Blair Kinghorn’s break down the wing and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne’s chase of Damien Hoyland’s kick for the first two.
After Tovey went off, it was mostly down to the forwards, including a penalty try awarded when Krasny pulled down a maul heading for their line, with only Kinghorn’s second, a solo break after he’d taken a turn in Tovey’s role, interrupting the flow of beefy forwards being driven over the line.
With no other fit stand-offs in the squad, Cockerill is sweating on the medical reports on Tovey, with Hidalgo-Clyne the alternative on standby.