Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley yesterday refused to concede that Edinburgh had ever considered themselves underdogs against Toulouse and paid tribute to the vocal encouragement of the record 37,881 crowd, which he believed made the difference during a punishing second half at Murrayfield.
“We did particularly well in the second half because we kept the pressure on Toulouse,” said Bradley, who described this as the finest result of his coaching career. “They found it difficult to get into their stride and I think they were surprised at how well our pack performed, especially at the scrum.
“But I’m convinced that the key factor in us winning was the crowd, and the quality of their support, particularly in the last 20 minutes. If you were on that pitch and you were playing for Edinburgh then there was no way you were going to lose, so it was a major factor.”
Bradley stressed that it was the rising crowd numbers in the days before the match which bolstered his players’ resolve and produced one of the most stunning upsets in Heineken Cup history. “We didn’t see ourselves as underdogs,” he said afterwards. “The fact that we were playing at home and that the crowd was building were both in our favour. This season we have played a lot of good rugby and we’ve been able to deliver at crucial stages in the pool matches when we’ve been able to ride our luck. It was the same once again today, and fortunately we ended on the right side of the result.”
Bradley emphasised that the key to success was a varied gameplan. “We were very fearful of Toulouse’s ability, particularly up front, but we also felt that just to play them one way would be too easy for them to defend so we used a multiple of tactics, sometimes going wide, sometimes going close, kicking far more than we normally would. Toulouse’s defence is very strong and their work at the breakdown is outstanding so we had to keep varying the target.”
Bradley, however, was the first to concede that Edinburgh rode their luck, especially when they lost two men to the sin-bin in the first half. “Going down to 13 men was not wise,” he said. “You can lose a game comfortably in the ten minutes that you’re down by two men and I was glad Toulouse went for the kick when Ross Rennie was sin-binned.”
Veteran coach Guy Noves, who yesterday coached Toulouse to his 13th Heineken Cup quarter-final, scotched any idea that Edinburgh had been anything other than worthy winners. “I’m very disappointed with my team and don’t understand why we played so badly, especially in the second half,” he said. “It was a very special atmosphere, but we were ready for that. What surprised me is that we didn’t excel in any area of the game. Edinburgh deserved to win.”
Noves , however, stressed how difficult Edinburgh will find it to win on the road when they play either Munster or Ulster – who meet today – at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium in three weeks’ time. It is a match Bradley, a Munsterman to his core, is already contemplating, admitting that this week saw “a lot of banter” winging back and forth across the Irish Sea this week. But most of all, he knows that, as it did in Ireland, Heineken Cup success could be the springboard for an upturn in Scottish rugby’s fortunes, which would be a fitting legacy for a remarkable performance from a side on the march.