If Edinburgh do have aspirations to be contending in the upper reaches of the Guinness Pro12 play-offs this season then performances like Saturday evening’s will have to be filed away at the back of the cabinet in a folder marked “no repeats please”.
It was ragged stuff from Edinburgh as an uninspired Munster side were able to slink off with a narrow win which took the Irish province’s record to six wins from seven. The hosts, on the other hand, have now followed up their excellent start of four straight wins with three defeats on the bounce – a pattern which will have to be swiftly broken when the league resumes in two weeks.
In a tepid first half, the home side’s work was riddled with basic errors. The half-back pairing of Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Greig Tonks, who was in for the injured Phil Burleigh, misfired from the off and never got a grip on the game.
The lineout, with the inexperienced Alex Toolis making the calls, was always under pressure and passing across the field was at times woeful. With the Scotland front-row of Al Dickinson, Ross Ford and WP Nel back in harness the set scrum was one area Edinburgh edged, although it did concede the two late penalties that nicked the game for Munster.
The Scots had grounds for grievance about a series of key decisions by Irish referee David Wilkinson but, ultimately, the search for blame when the squad gathers at BT Murrayfield for a depressing review today will have to start with the mirror. Munster struck first with an early try by John Ryan but Hidalgo-Clyne’s two penalties to Ian Keatley’s conversion and a penalty meant it was only 10-6 to the visitors at the break.
Edinburgh enjoyed their best period of the game in the third quarter as Will Helu’s well-taken try and a Hidalgo-Clyne penalty – the scrum-half was unlucky to see his earlier conversion attempt hit the post – put them in a position to see out the game.
That penalty, which made it 14-10, proved to be the only points Edinburgh managed across 20 minutes that Munster were a man down through a sin-binning in each half.
Wilkinson’s penalising of the Edinburgh scrum saw the pendulum swing towards Munster in the closing minutes and it looked like the game was petering out when young winger Damien Hoyland intercepted in his own 22 and took Edinburgh up to the opposition red zone. After a series of drives at the line, and with stand-off Tonks in the bin, Hidalgo-Clyne went for the drop goal but didn’t fall back deep enough and was charged down.
Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons was a picture of frustration at the end and said: “Sammy did it because he thought he had an opportunity to win us the game. He has played stand-off before, though a few years ago, and he thought he could do it. But if we had just been patient and composed there was no need to go for a drop. We just had to hold on to the ball. If we had got a penalty, it would have been 17-16 and we would be having a different conversation now.
“It was going to take something before he [ref Wilkinson] was going to give it, but if we held it long enough he would have had to give it. That was my feeling and we just didn’t hold on to the ball.”
While clearly fizzing, Solomons insisted there was no need for panic.
He said: “It’s not a major issue. You can look at it and say ‘oh well, you’ve lost your last three games’. You’ve got to look at each game and see where you are with each game.
“This is a game we should have won. There is not even a doubt in my mind. I don’t think there’s a problem picking them up. We know these little things we did wrong are things we have to do right.”
After European games against Grenoble at home and Agen away, Edinburgh will return to league action with the visit of the Dragons, when a good win to get things back on track will very much be the order of the day.