MIKE Coman is in no doubt as to what the key to success was for Edinburgh in their surprise victory over Glasgow Warriors on Friday. It was never going to be a night for the faint-hearted, and anyone turning up at BT Murrayfield to witness an exhibition of free-flowing rugby was destined to be disappointed.
This was always going to be 80 minutes of blood and guts, and in recent seasons the Warriors’ self-belief has been enough to carry them through these keenly contested encounters.
However, Gregor Townsend’s men were clearly rattled by Edinburgh’s aggression and struggled throughout to generate any sort of momentum from which the highly-rated strike runners in their back-line could show what they are capable of given half a chance.
It would be too simplistic to say that both Tim Visser’s tries came from Glasgow errors. The truth is that a big reason why Niko Matawalu had his box-kick charged down and then Peter Horne lobbed that wild interception pass just a few minutes later, was because the Warriors players felt pressurised into making uncharacteristically reckless decisions.
“I think our physicality was a lot better this week. Breakdown-wise, we were far more aggressive, defensively we were a lot more confrontational, we stuck to our defensive systems better which gave us confidence to make massive hits, and we slowed the ball down as a unit. It was a good all-round defensive performance,” said Coman.
“And you can only get confidence when you know your systems are working well. There is no point rushing out the line to make that big hit when you are leaving the team exposed. Also, the front five were superb. I don’t think people understand what a boost it is if you are on top at scrum time and line-out time. That gave us confidence and you could feel the backs feeding of that. There is no doubt that they started to play better because they knew their forwards were on top.”
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Coman arrived in the Scottish capital in October 2013 and, although a series of injuries have limited his appearances for the club, the affable back-rower has had no problem establishing himself as a captain the team are happy to rally behind.
The 27-year-old says the physicality he has witnessed since arriving in the northern hemisphere has been the big difference to what he was used to playing in New Zealand, which is slightly surprising given how much he seems to revel in that aspect of the game. On Friday night, he was at his destructive best as part of an impressive Edinburgh breakaway unit which also featured Dave Denton and Roddy Grant.
“The conditions dictate so much of the way you play over here. Physically it’s tougher – with big, mean forwards and a more confrontational carrying style of game. And there is a much greater onus on the set-piece. You can’t function without a good set-piece, whereas, in the southern hemisphere, the scrums are seen as just a way of getting the game restarted. People might argue that the southern hemisphere is a bit more expansive, but I’m not so sure. I would certainly say that I am enjoying it over here,” he said.
There is no doubt that Coman was pretty happy with life as he celebrated being part of a victory for a side which has played second fiddle in the 1872 Cup for the last six years. But he has been around the game long enough to know that his team cannot afford to dwell on it for too long.
That is a mistake they have perhaps been guilty of making in the past. We only need to look back to the start of this season, when Edinburgh defeated Munster at Thomond Park in their first league match of the campaign, but then slumped to back-to-back defeats against Connacht and the Ospreys.
“Since I’ve been involved in Edinburgh, I’ve been there countless times when we’ve played well and beaten sides, then dropped off the next week, so I want to enjoy this experience but we’ve got to make sure we keep moving forward and take this into the next game – or it doesn’t mean very much at all,” said Coman.
“We’ll find out in the next few weeks [whether we have turned a corner]. It might not always be apparent to people outside the squad, but we are making good progress here as a club and we are becoming more consistent. Obviously, we have had patches where we have let ourselves down, but that’s going to happen along the road.
“This was a good stepping stone, but we aren’t kidding ourselves. Last week we didn’t play that well and lost, and this game wasn’t perfect for us either – we got an intercept try but probably didn’t build too many phases throughout the game to score points – so, while we can enjoy this win, we know that we are still sitting eighth in the table. It doesn’t change a lot, really.
“There have been a lot of changes to this squad in recent seasons and it does take time to mould, but we’ve got a lot more depth now and we truly believe we are getting better. I have been around rugby for a decent amount of time and I can see the improvements being made.”
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