Most Edinburgh players were sick to their stomachs after last weekend’s defeat in the Munster match; Tom Brown was violently ill before a ball had been kicked in anger. He managed to struggle through the first 40 but was replaced at half time by Dougie Fife, an act of mercy.
“I just came down with a bit of sickness on the day,” the winger recalls. “It was literally in the warm-up, it just came on. I don’t know whether it was food or some other illness related but it was almost immediate.
“It was a bit of a struggle, to be honest. I’ve not experienced going into a game feeling that bad before. It was a tough day at the office for everyone, but, in particular, it was pretty brutal for me.”
It was. Munster scored two tries down his wing, including the best score of the afternoon after Brown had been bounced off a tackle well inside the Munster half, which suggests he should not have started at all.
“There were some big boys out there,” Brown continues. “We’ve obviously had a look at the game and we’re all disappointed. We knew what was on the line but we know that it is all to play for this weekend as well, so we’ve got to put it behind us and look to Saturday, which is huge.”
Brown cuts such a slight figure that it is difficult to believe either his given height on the Edinburgh website of 5ft 11in or his weight, 90kgs. As the Munster match proved he can struggle in the contact zone although he has shown his mettle more than once this season, especially when keeping Glasgow’s giant Taqele Naiyaravoro in his box during the 1872 Cup. One flying tackle in particular saved a try, bashing the big Fijian into touch just metres shy of the Edinburgh line.
That was the undoubted highlight of Edinburgh’s plum ordinary season although the club retain a slender chance of making the top six and European Champions Cup rugby next season, which has been their goal all along. They need a bonus point win over the Cardiff Blues tomorrow and other results to go their way, namely the Scarlets to beat Munster and ensure the Irishmen don’t get so much as a losing bonus, a tough ask at Thomond Park.
Perhaps now Edinburgh will play some rugby because far too often they rely upon the international front row to milk scrum penalties and then drive the lineout. It wouldn’t be so bad if it worked but eighth place in the Pro12 is a poor return for all the talent in the team. The match against Connacht at Murrayfield a few weeks back was a case in point. The Irish side were almost out of sight at half-time before Edinburgh put some width on their attack in the second 40 and threatened the most unlikely of comebacks... only to see a late try seal the win for the visitors.
“Unfortunately that has happened in a few games this year,” says Brown. “We have had a slow start and once we have felt the pressure has come off our shoulders a wee bit we have started to play some good rugby. I suppose it is something that over the last years we have been developing and it is just bringing that into the games. We see it in parts in our training and it is just bringing it onto the park on Friday night or Saturday. It [the season] has been frustrating. We had such a good start to the season, like I said there have been a few games that have run away from us.
“Looking back at them, the Scarlets away game was in the second half [of the season] but the Munster home game was quite early on. It has been tough, we have had a difficult run-in, we have been close and we have made huge improvements over the last couple of seasons.
“The position in the table does not tell the whole story, we are still competing, we are still 11 points off the top four at the moment. That is a huge improvement from the last few seasons. We have to look to build from that. We are going to be competing for the top four next year.”