Nic Groom is a great exponent of the fast-growing health and fitness craze “wild swimming”. Short, sharp swims in the ocean or lochs and lakes around the country have become even more popular post-lockdown with benefits to health and mental wellbeing said to be many. Even the Prime Minister is reported to have partaken in the activity during his recent Highlands retreat.
For Groom it provides the perfect escape from the frenetic life of being a professional rugby player but on the sport’s return north of the Border in the 30-15 Pro14 semi-final and 1872 Cup-clinching win over Glasgow on Saturday evening there was plenty of serene calm.
Behind closed doors of course, though around 700 fans are expected at BT Murrayfield for Friday’s final regular-season match against the same opponents, there wasn’t even the sound of piped crowd noises to break the eerie silence. After an even first half, in which Glasgow edged into a 15-13 lead, Edinburgh took control and were worthy winners of a match in which Groom scored two tries – one a close-range snipe from the base of the ruck and then an easy finish after Duhan van der Merwe’s trademark rampage through the defensive lines and a cool left-hand pass for the scrum-half to dot down.
“We were sitting at half-time going ‘well, okay, we’re down but we saw some good signs’. And I’m quite chuffed with how we stuck to it,” said the 30-year-old former Stormers,Northampton and Golden Lions man.
“We always thought we’d have a bit of an edge towards the end of the game – we’ve worked really hard at training and that came through for us. Great to win – first bit of silverware for us this year.”
Edinburgh remain in the hunt for more in both the Pro14 and European Challenge Cup but for now it was the securing of that home semi-final against Ulster in a couple of weeks’ time which is the most satisfying for a long underperforming club which has been reborn under Richard Cockerill.
The coach said that the second half was built on going “back to basics” as Glasgow, who crossed through Pete Horne and Adam Hastings in the first 40, were blanked after the break and Edinburgh wrapped things up with Groom’s second score, the reliable boot of Jaco van der Walt and a brilliant flourish at the end by replacement scrum-half Charlie Shiel.
“The first half was a bit tricky. I’ve never really played a game against Glasgow where there hasn’t been some serious [niggle]. And I haven’t really wrapped my head around it yet,” said Groom with a smile. A bit of handbags under the posts after Glasgow’s first try betrayed the frustration unleashed by players who have been denied doing what they are paid to do for more than five months due to the devastating pandemic.
“You saw that in the beginning, there were a lot of penalties – and that was something we expected judging from some of the previous games that have been played [in England] – so it was tough to get going and build phases.”
It was a good day for Edinburgh’s South Africa-born contingent.
The now Scots-qualified Van der Merwe showed his pace and power once again in front of the watching national coach Gregor Townsend, while Van der Walt is eligible later in the year.
“I owe Duhan a lot of beers, I think. He has put me over a few times,” said Groom. “He’s an incredible player with the ball in hand and my philosophy is that if I just stick close to him then I’m in with a chance.”
Asked if the blond wing was good enough to play for Scotland, Groom replied: “I think so. I don’t think many people would argue against that.”
Groom also predicts a big future for his scrum-half back-up Shiel, the son of former Scotland centre Graham, who finished things off with a superb try. “He’s going to be a great player for Scotland one day, I hope,” said Groom. “He’s really coming on, he’s dangerous, extremely quick, and I’m chuffed for him.”
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