Michael BRADLEY will spend this week trying to lift his players ahead of the weekend’s trip to his old stomping ground.
Bradley, a former scrum half with Connacht, spent eight seasons in Galway as the Irish province’s director of rugby. It will be his first return to the Sportsground since taking over in charge of Edinburgh last year.
Unfortunately, he returns to Ireland with an Edinburgh side smarting from a tenth RaboDirect Pro12 defeat of the season. Struggling at the foot of the Celtic League, Bradley’s under-strength slipped unceremoniously to a 21-10 defeat at the hands of Newport Gwent Dragons.
“We have to lick our wounds and make sure that we learn from the mistakes we are making,” said Bradley, who was disappointed with his side’s inaccuracy at the breakdown and inability to turn a number of gilt-edged try-scoring chances into points.
“I thought we were poor in the first half and might have been a few more points down. Had the Dragons taken their chances, it would have been much worse than 18-3.
“We were a bit better in the second half, but then we made mistakes going forward and gave up two wonderful opportunities to score tries. It was very costly.
“As far as Connacht is concerned, I’m sure they are looking forward to seeing us next week. They have had a good record against us in recent years and it’s a difficult place to go for anyone. Harlequins found that out, to their cost.
“That was a magnificent victory for Connacht and they will live off that for a while. They will look forward to seeing us more than we are looking forward to going there, that’s for sure. Personally, it will be good to go back. I just need to make sure I go into the right dressing room!”
The only salvation for Bradley, after Saturday’s demoralising defeat, is that Edinburgh are making their mistakes in the league and not the Heineken Cup. “We are disappointed with our position in the Rabo, but we have made mistakes and turned over games that we should have won.
“There have been little marks along the way where we haven’t converted our opportunities. It has been the other way around in the Heineken Cup, where we have won games that maybe we might have lost. Look at London Irish away and Racing at home – it has been one of those seasons.
“On the plus side, I thought a couple of the boys – Stuart McInally and Netani Talei – who are pushing for places in the Heineken Cup, were very good. But for long periods, we were off the mark as a team, especially at the breakdown, where our execution was poor.
“We had similar problems down here against Cardiff in the Heineken Cup, but we made adjustments when we played them back at home. We have to make those adjustments in time for a very difficult game at Connacht next week.”
Having taken the lead courtesy of Phil Godman’s second-minute penalty, Edinburgh leaked 18 points in the remaining 38 minutes of the half. Having failed to score while the Dragons were down to 14 men – Gavin Thomas yellow-carded – the Gunners found themselves with a numerical disadvantage later in the half when Sean Cox followed the former Wales back rower into the bin.
Joe Bedford and Aled Brew crossed for the Dragons in a one-sided first half with Thomas, Jason Tovey and Ashley Smith all coming close to further tries.
After the interval, the Dragons lost their way going forward and allowed Edinburgh back into a contest that should have been well out of reach.
Second row Grant Gilchrist picked up and touched down for a try that Gregor Hunter converted, 16 minutes from time, before Sep Visser bombed a simple opportunity after brother Tim has chased his own kick.
With the Dragons facing a desperate situation, Edinburgh got their wires crossed and Tom Brown’s supposed try-scoring pass was spilt by the younger Visser.
Captain Roddy Grant said: “We were always playing catch-up in the second half, but, to be honest, we did have our chances. Who knows what might have happened had we have scored one of them. Still, it was a disappointing for long periods, and it’s our job now to get back on the horse and make sure we don’t make the same errors next week in Galway.
“This group of games during the Six Nations and ahead of the Heineken Cup quarter finals, are very important and we have not made the best start. Now we have to go to Connacht and then Ulster. It doesn’t get any easier.”
Scorers: Dragons: Tries: Bedford, Brew. Conversion: Tovey. Penalties: Tovey (3). Edinburgh: Try: Gilchrist. Conversion: Hunter. Penalty: Godman.
Newport Gwent Dragons: M Thomas (W Harries 70); A Hughes, A Tuilagi, A Smith (capt, L Robling 61), A Brew; J Tovey, J Bedford; N Williams (P Price 52), S Jones (S Parry 75), N Buck (D Way 60), J Groves, R Sidoli, L Evans (H Ellis 68), D Waters (T Brown 52), G Thomas.
Edinburgh: T Brown; S Visser, M Scott, J Houston (J Thompson 20), T Visser; P Godman (G Hunter 52), C Leck (A Black 68); K Traynor, A Walker (A Kelly 53), J Gilding (U Gamboa 53), G Gilchrist, S Cox, S McInally, R Grant (capt), N Talei
Referee: A Falzone (Italy)