Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill described the achievement of securing a home quarter-final in the Heineken Champions Cup as “a big step forward” after watching his side defeat French giants Montpellier 19-10 at BT Murrayfield.
The victory, which clinched top spot in Pool 5 of Europe’s elite competition, means that Glasgow are also now assured of progressing to the knockout stages before they kick off against Saracens in London today. Having both sides in the last eight is a historic first for Scottish rugby.
Darcy Graham scored Edinburgh’s crucial try in the second half as Cockerill’s side got the better of Vern Cotter’s Montpellier in front of 11,802 – a record Scottish crowd for a European pool match.
“It is a big step forward for us as a club,” said the coach. “It was a big win for us.” Asked if he had received a grateful call from Glasgow coach Dave Rennie, Cockerill quipped; “There’s always one down side to the evening isn’t there?”
The Englishman added: “Look, I enjoy the rivalry [with Glasgow] and the rivalry is going to get stronger and better. It’s great for Scottish rugby. We’ve got two teams in the quarter-finals, there’s a lot of good things happening in the Scottish game. So let’s enjoy it.”
Cockerill admitted that the prospect of a home tie in the last eight, with Exeter or Munster looking the most likely opponents, at the end of March was a prospect to savour.
“Seventy five per cent of teams win their quarter-finals when they’re at home. Simple as that,” Cockerill said. “Hopefully we’ll get a bigger crowd. It was a great crowd tonight. We want to get a big team, bring them here. So 30-40-50,000 people here for a quarter-final. Why not? We’ve got a team worth watching. Come and support us. The boys deserve it.”
Cockerill played down Edinburgh’s chances of winning the tournament but added with a smile: “We win the next three games, we are champions of Europe and I am retiring.”
The only sour note for Edinburgh was that flanker Hamish Watson is thought to have suffered a broken hand and will miss at least the start of Scotland’s Six Nations campaign.