Edinburgh get adrenaline hit with tense finishes - but know they need to cut them out
All too often in the past, Scottish teams’ hopes of victory have been dashed at the death in tight games. And for a few agonising moments on Saturday, Edinburgh’s Challenge Cup tie at Saracens seemed doomed to be added to the list of disappointments.
But Mike Blair’s side held on for a 21-18 victory, and although in the end that result depended on the referee’s decision to disallow a Saracens stoppage-time score, it was a deserved win nonetheless. Emiliano Boffelli contributed 11 points with his mighty boot, his fellow-Argentinian Ramiro Moyano scored Edinburgh’s opening try, and the last word went to WP Nel, who capped off an outstanding afternoon’s work with what turned out to be the winning score.
“One of the things that we probably still need to sort out as a team is how to close out the game,” tighthead prop Nel said after the match. “But ******* hell boys, it was brilliant.
“It was just something that really clicked together and we’ll take that result. It was obviously right up there. The boys worked hard for each other and in the end we deserved what came to us. It was brilliant.”
Along with Stuart McInally and Grant Gilchrist, Nel played for Edinburgh nine seasons ago when they lost heavily home and away to Saracens in the Champions Cup. The English club played their home games at Watford’s Vicarage Road in those days rather than the Stonex Stadium, but while the venue had changed, as far as Nel was concerned the fact that his team were playing Saracens away was enough to evoke memories of that visit in early 2013.
“When we came here I was thinking about the first time I played here,” he added. “It was white outside, they had leaf-blowers to blow away the snow, and we lost - I think we took 45 points or something.”
The result was actually 40-7 – the concession of 45 points was in the game at Murrayfield, when Nel’s team failed to score. But this is a far different Edinburgh team, one who, after such an inspiring result, will surely go into the double-header against Glasgow in a pretty confident frame of mind.
The players will have some time off this week before preparations begin for the first of those games, at Scotstoun two days after Christmas, but Mike Blair is aware of the danger of being caught cold if they relax too much. “We want to give our players time with their families, because Christmas is important for that,” the head coach said. “But we don’t want to be undercooked for Glasgow.
“With the bye week this week it’s great, because it allows us to freshen up a little bit. But we need to be at a stage where we’re still kind of hardened and ready for that Glasgow game. Glasgow have Exeter on Saturday, so they’ll be hardened and ready to go, and we need to be the same.”
Blair believes that his injury list will be somewhat shorter by the time he selects a squad for the first 1872 Cup match at Scotstoun, and Darcy Graham and Jamie Ritchie are among those who could come back into contention. But the growing depth of his squad is there for all to see, and whoever is selected, Edinburgh are certain to head west in a confident frame of mind.