Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons says that Scottish rugby would receive a huge boost if Glasgow Warriors go on to lift the RaboDirect Pro12 title.
Leinster 15-13 Edinburgh
Scorers: Leinster: Tries: Murphy, D Kearney: Pen: Gopperth. Con: Gopperth. Edinburgh: Try: Visser. Pens: Laidlaw (2). Con: Laidlaw
And the South African expects Gregor Townsend’s men to make a bold bid at becoming the first Scottish team to reach the final after three semi-final losses since the play-offs were introduced four years ago.
All three defeats were away from home and the Edinburgh coach, who saw the curtain come down on his first season in charge with a fifth successive loss at the RDS on Saturday night, expects the home teams to prevail again, and he said a Glasgow win would be great.
“I think it’s a massive boost for Scottish rugby for them to do that. I think it’s a great achievement, I think they’ve played really, really well this season and they certainly have earned their right to be in the semi-final.
“I do believe the teams that have the home semis are going to come through. But I think the games are going to be very, very tight. Those are four excellent teams that are in the semi-final.”
His side produced a gutsy performance in Dublin on Saturday night but ultimately came up short in a game where Matt Scott suffered a dislocated shoulder and is set to miss Scotland’s summer tour, while David Denton will have to go through the concussion protocols before he is cleared for the four-match tour to Canada, USA, Argentina and South Africa.
Solomons was full of praise for his side’s performance, not least as he lost three men to injury in less than half an hour with Sam Beard joining the two Scottish internationals in the casualty department.
They still led 6-5 at the break with Greig Laidlaw marking his final appearance by bookending the half with penalties, while he also sent Tim Visser through for their only try 15 minutes from the end.
That ensured a nervous finish for the champions, who are bidding to become the first side to retain the title, but tries in either half from Jordi Murphy and Dave Kearney saw them across the line in a far from convincing manner.
“I thought the guys played tremendously, with the heart that they showed,” said Solomons. “We said at the beginning of the season we wanted to earn respect with the way we played and we’ve been really fatigued the last three of four games because it’s been a tough season.
“We had a chance to win it and I thought what was significant was the fact that Leinster wound down the clock so I think hats off to our players. I think they played their hearts out,” added Solomons, who will be bringing his squad back for pre-season training on 12 June.
He said that Edinburgh’s fitness has been a factor all season and he intends to rectify it by getting players back in early and working them hard during the summer.
“We have to get properly conditioned. Our conditioning, we just know we can’t play the kind of rugby we want to play. We can’t bring that physicality and we saw that at the end of the season.
“I think that the key for us is we are going to have a massive pre-season and we will insure these players are properly conditioned.
“They’ve been given their off-season programmes, they’ve been told what is expected of them and they will be back on the 12th of June. All our planning for pre-season is completed. The testing, everything’s been set up for that, they’ll come back the way we want them to come on the 12th of June.”
Solomons said that while he knows the scale of the work required to make Edinburgh a force, he feels some progress has been made in his first campaign at the helm.
“I think we’ve earned respect, I think we’ve come eighth in the Pro12 so that’s an improvement on our previous position. So we’ve improved that, that was without any pre-season, no role in recruitment or retention of players at all. I think we’ve improved in the Rabo and in Europe apart from the one season where we got through to the semi-finals in the last four years, it’s been our best performance. We’ve won three out of six so I think in all the circumstances coming in at the start of the competitive season with no pre-season, no involvement with recruitment I’m very happy with what we’ve achieved this year,” he added, as he left the RDS with his hosts preparing to try to retain their crown while back in Scotland arch rivals Glasgow Warriors are rolling up their sleeves for a tilt at moving even further ahead than the Murrayfield tenants.
Leinster: R Kearney (Macken 58); McFadden, O’Driscoll, D’Arcy (Madigan 64), D Kearney; Gopperth, Boss; J McGrath (Healy 52), Strauss (Cronin 12), Ross (Moore 52); Cullen (Ruddock 53), McCarthy; O’Brien (Ryan 51), Murphy, Heaslip.
Edinburgh: Bezuidenhout (Francis 70); Beard (Hart 3), Scott (Atiga 28), Strauss, Visser; Leonard, Laidlaw; Dickinson, Ford (Hilterbrand 64), Nel (Berghan 64); Gilchrist, B Toolis (A Toolis 58); Coman, Leonardi, Denton (Basilaia 27).