DCSIMG

Rugby: Full back admits the only way is up for Edinburgh after record home defeat in Europe

Nick de Luca and Tim Visser tackle Saracens forward Mouritz Botha on a sorry day for Edinburgh.

Nick de Luca and Tim Visser tackle Saracens forward Mouritz Botha on a sorry day for Edinburgh.

  • by BILL LOTHIAN
 

Edinburgh Rugby star Tom Brown admitted the only way is up for the side after a crushing 45-0 home defeat by Saracens to open the Heineken European Cup.

Saracens doubled their try tally for the entire season by notching five touchdowns unanswered and in holding up his hands on behalf of the team full back Brown, who had tried manfully to stem a near relentless tide, said: “The only way is up and that’s when you make your improvements and there’s a lot to make.”

Brown, whose contributions included some neat covering topped by one Houdini like 
escape in the face of a Saracens pincer movement made him one of the few Scots to emerge with any credit, admitted mitigating circumstances were conspicuously absent.

“No excuses,” he added: “We should have been implementing our game and we don’t feel we did that. We didn’t put enough pressure on them.” What went wrong from Edinburgh’s perspective?

“They played their game really well and obviously pushed us back into our own half and into our corners. They had a very good kick (and) chase which is really hard to play against. They played the right areas. They got up in our faces with a good defence. They were pushing in on us. That is something we have to react to on the pitch.

“It is a tough one, highly frustrating. You go in on such a high looking forward to this game for weeks and get a huge disappointment.

“All we can do is build, get back to where we were. We have to get the winning mentality back and put other teams under more pressure.

“We have to look to when things went right for us in the past such as coming back from 22 points down to beat Racing Metro last season. You have to learn from this and we will not just use this lesson on Sunday in Munster but in the Rabo Direct League as well.

“It is going to be a big week but we have an incentive to push on and turn things around.”

Ignominy was piled on ignominy in a match that could easily be sub-titled “Sarries v Sorries”. For example, this was Edinburgh’s biggest home defeat in Europe surpassing an 8-47 loss to Northampton at Myreside in December, 1999.

As if that was not bad enough Saracens became the first team to prevent Edinburgh scoring at home in the competition in joining Toulouse, Perpignan and Leicester Tigers as ones who had achieved the clean sheet against them on their own turf.

Almost as deflating was the fact that the crowd of 6543 was approximately 31,000 fewer than turned up to see Edinburgh’s last European home tie – the quarter-final victory over Toulouse earlier this year.

How times have changed and despite a much trumpeted budget increase from the Scottish Rugby Union paymasters who pull the strings, Edinburgh even failed to make a mark when their opponents lost hooker Schalk Brits to the sin-bin for ten minutes.

Initially, Edinburgh flattered to deceive by keeping the ball alive in the opening moments but a crooked line-out throw inside the Saracens “22” cost ground and was a sign of things to come.

Faced with a blitz defence Edinburgh appeared to panic and in the absence of any composure threw out a sequence of loose passes while the line-out went from bad to worse and the scrum creaked.

By half-time Saracens had notched a try by centre Joel Tomkins converted by Charlie Hodgson who also kicked three penalties to be well on his way to an eventual haul of 25 points.

Hodgson’s quarter century included one of four tries after the break with Owen Farrell, Alex Goode and Chris Ashton also crossing for a side who appeared capable of ripping away possession at will.

Not that physically superior Saracens needed to commit themselves too much in that department as the home ineptitude was summed up by a pass that missed a two-man overlap near halfway and ended up on the grandstand side of a 
touch-flag.

When Edinburgh brought on Netani Talei on the hour mark it was a nod in the direction of the talismanic figure from last year’s Euro crusade but there was no time for the Fijian to make an impact and if a crumb of comfort existed it was surely the debuts afforded Dougie Fife, Robin Hislop and Rob McAlpine, all youngsters with their best years ahead.

Things will not get any easier this weekend either at a Munster side fighting for their Euro lives after an opening defeat at Racing Metro and Edinburgh facing the prospect of crossing the Irish Sea without Greig Laidlaw and Tim Visser who between them had been responsible for 87 of the 122 points scored in the league this season not counting penalty tries.

Laidlaw has a shoulder injury and Visser took a knee knock and there could be repercussions for Scotland.

In particular Laidlaw’s main rival to wear the No. 10 jersey against New Zealand next up in November, Duncan Weir, is currently sidelined.

Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley could not give specific details of the injuries in the aftermath but had little difficulty identifying collective failings.

“One of the key elements of their game plan is the strength of their defence. If you hold on to the ball you have to be pretty accurate or put the ball in behind with a kicking game.

“We had a zero kicking game in the first half and gave away soft penalties when it was not on.

“We can’t play that poorly again. We have to pick the bones out of today’s mess.

“We know we have quality players and quality people. We just have to get back from this,” said Bradley.

On the subject of quality people, Saracens owner Nigel Wray showed a nice touch post-match by pitching up in the supporters’ bar and buying a drink for each of the travelling fans. The gesture evoked memories of the old amateur era and it’s values from a highly professional club – not that there was much of an excuse for Edinburgh’s stumbling performance and when asked how worrying the result might be at international level the Londoners’ Scotland back row, Kelly Brown, effectively opted to take the fifth 
amendment.

Such a silence from an otherwise engaging individual spoke volumes on a day of acknowledged embarrassment and maybe even humiliation for one of Scottish rugby’s two flagship sides.

Scorers: Saracens: Tries: Tomkins, Ashton, Goode, Farrell, Hodgson. Conversions: Hodgson (4). Penalties: Hodgson (4).

Edinburgh: Brown, Jones, De Luca, Scott, T Visser (Fife, 40), Laidlaw (captain, Leonard, 40), Rees (Leck, 70), Yapp (Hislop, 70), Ford (Titterrell, 62), Nel (Cross, 70), Gilchrist (McAlpine, 77), Cox, Denton, McInally (Talei, 65), Rennie.

Saracens: Goode, Ashton, Tomkins (Farrell, 56), Barritt, Strettle (Wyles, 70), Hodgson, Wigglesworth (De Kock, 56), Vunipola (Gill, 56), Brits (Smit, 65), Stevens (Du Plessis, 65), Borthwick, Botha (Kruis, 56), Brown (Saull, 56), Wray, Fraser.

Ref: John Lacey (Ireland).

Attendance: 6543.

 

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