Having made a big impact last time, it proved a difficult second season for Cockerill, pictured, who also had to contend with serious injuries to key players John Barclay and Mark Bennett.
But with most of his squad fit, Edinburgh still finished the season tamely with big losses to Ulster and Glasgow. This has to worry the former Leicester man who remained upbeat after Saturday’s defeat.
“There are some points in life where you just have to smile, don’t you?” said the Edinburgh coach after Saturday’s loss.
“Look, they played very well, they’re a very good team and we looked nowhere near like being in the game. Congratulations to Dave [Rennie] because they were bloody good tonight and they deserved their win.
“We are a side that’s learning to play big games week in and week out and live with different expectations. We’ve gone hard at Europe and hard every week when we’ve played in the league. I don’t think it’s a conscious thing, but the attrition of the season has probably taken its toll on the squad.
“We’ve had lots of guys in the Test team, lots of injuries and guys have had to step up. We’re just not used to being at the sharp end and we weren’t good enough tonight. We need to keep working on the team, coach the guys better, get guys better and keep building the depth of our squad. It’s as simple as that. We just weren’t good enough.”
That Edinburgh can hit the heights is not in doubt. They stood toe to toe with Munster in that European quarter-final, beat Glasgow twice in December and walloped Toulon 40-14.
By the same token any team that loses to Zebre 24-16 in October, after leading 13-0, surely needs some tweaking, and Cockerill has to ensure players buy into his particular version of tough love.
“We have the basis of a very good team,” the coach insisted when asked if he needed to rebuild. “We need to keep adding depth to that and keep players improving. It takes time or money; we haven’t got money, so we’ll take time.”