Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill said he never likes to lose but expressed satisfaction with his side’s performance as they were narrowly beaten by Aviva Premiership outfit Bath in their first pre-season friendly last night.
A healthy sell-out crowd of 4,200 pitched up at Meggetland to see the start of Cockerill’s second year in charge of the capital pro-team with optimism that last season’s highly positive campaign will lead to more of the same.
A disjointed match ended in the visitors’ favour and Cockerill said: “It was a good hit-out for us.
“Obviously there was a bit of rustiness from both teams but I thought physically we were very good. Defensively we did some good things.
“We’ve got a lot to improve on but for a starting point it’s a good one.
“There were 20-plus turnovers in the game which was a little bit frustrating.
“As much as I hate losing I think it’s a good start for us because there’s a lot of good boys to come back in. I thought the young lads making their debuts, Jack Blain, Callum Atkinson, Jamie Hodgson, did really well.”
Cockerill was happy to see Scotland flanker Hamish Watson return to action after not playing since the Six Nations match against Italy and undergoing shoulder surgery.
“Obviously having surgery over the summer it’s good to get him fully fit and back on the field,” said the coach. “That first half was competitive and physical and Hamish did well.”
The English visitors, who included former Scotland Under-16 back-rower Zach Mercer, a former Merchiston Castle pupil who has gone on to represent England at Under-18 and Under-20 level, enjoyed the bulk of possession and territory in the early exchanges.
Right wing Semesa Rokoduguni crossed early on after Edinburgh’s new Kiwi stand-off Simon Hickey had a clearing kick charged down but it was pulled back for a forward pass.
The match remained scoreless heading into the second quarter but Bath made the breakthrough just before the half-hour mark as the forwards pressured the home line and prop Nathan Catt got over.
Stand-off Freddie Burns struck the post with his conversion attempt.
Edinburgh finally got on the board on the stroke of half-time as Jason Baggott, who had come on after Hickey picked up a knock, booted over a penalty.
Cockerill changed his entire team at half-time, with 13 coming on to join first-half replacements Baggott and Dougie Fife.
That included a first appearance in Edinburgh colours for Scotland scrum-half Henry Pyrgos, who joined from Glasgow in the summer and took over the captaincy for the remainder of the evening from hooker Stuart McInally.
Edinburgh struck within a few minutes of the second half as they laid siege to the Bath line before Pyrgos’s pass put wing Chris Dean in at the left corner and Baggott, the 23-year-old former Melrose stand-off who signed a pro deal last season, nailed the touchline conversion.
Scotland centre Mark Bennett made a promising burst into the Bath 22 but he couldn’t find a team-mate with the pass out of the tackle.
Bath regained the lead with 15 minutes to go as their star signing, Wales and Lions centre Jamie Roberts, hit a perfect line to crash over and his compatriot Rhys Priestland made no mistake with the extras to nudge his side two points ahead.
As the clock ticked down, Edinburgh were pinned back and couldn’t carve out another opportunity. Next up for Cockerill’s men is a trip to Newcastle on Friday.
Cockerill added: “I’m obviously disappointed with the result because you always want to win but the most important thing for us is to get ready for [Guinness Pro14 opener against] Ospreys then into Ulster.
“Bath are a good side but it’s a game we could have won. But if you make that amount of errors and invited them in, with guys like Taulupe Faletau, Sam Underhill and guys like Jamie Roberts and Rhys Priestland into the back line to finish the game off it’s going to be difficult if you give them opportunities and we gave them too many.
“However, we did some good things too.
“I thought [scrum-half] Sean Kennedy did well and then Henry as well when he came on. He’s a good player. When he gets playing and he people around him get used to him he’s going to be a great asset.”