Nic Groom takes heart from ‘dogged’ Edinburgh performance in Bordeaux

Dejected Edinburgh captain Nic Groom leads his team off the field following their Challenge Cup defeat in France. Picture: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO/Shutterstock
Dejected Edinburgh captain Nic Groom leads his team off the field following their Challenge Cup defeat in France. Picture: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO/Shutterstock
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Edinburgh could be set for another trip to meet Bordeaux if they can safely negotiate Saturday’s European Challenge Cup tie at home to Agen. Such an assignment would hold no fears for Nic Groom, the scrum half who captained Edinburgh at the Stade Chaban-Delmas on Saturday. The 29-year-old scrum-half, is focusing only on progressing to the final eight. At that stage, he insists, anything can happen.

The defeat against the high-flying French Top 14 leaders means the capital outfit must win against Pool 3’s basement side at BT Murrayfield this weekend to secure a place in the last eight of the competition. With Bordeaux progressing to a European knockout phase for the first time and now guaranteed a home quarter-final tie and Edinburgh sure to be away from home if they progress, a rematch is possible. Richard Cockerill’s men showed enough on Saturday, and in the earlier meeting of the teams that ended in a draw to believe that, should that happen, they are capable of inflicting a rare home defeat on Bordeaux, who have not lost at their own ground since last April and have only suffered two defeats in all competitions this season.

The hosts presented a daunting prospect, with a massive physical presence up front and a potent combination of pace and flair behind the scrum. Their coach Christophe Urios made no secret of the fact that he was seeking nothing less than a bonus-point win. That was reflected in his selection of a squad featuring the five men selected in the French squad for the Six Nations, as well as Fijian centre Semi Radradra, Argentina winger Santiago Cordero and veteran Australian No 8 Scott Higginbotham.

Despite that, Cockerill was more sparing in the use of his prize assets, knowing that many have already faced the demands of the World Cup and have the Six Nations looming large.

Edinburgh sought to combat the Bordeaux strengths with a high-tempo approach that looked promising in the early stages. Jaco van der Walt gave them a well-deserved lead with a penalty before Bordeaux struck back with a three pointer from Matthieu Jalabert, who was also on target with both conversions after Radradra and Cordero had bagged a try apiece as the home side reached the break with a 17-3 advantage.

Duhan van der Merwe scored with a tremendous solo effort from long range that showed Edinburgh’s counter-attacking abilities, and Van der Walt converted to offer a glimmer of hope. But the hosts showed their class with a renewed spell of pressure and they made the game safe with further tries by Yann Lesgourgues and Peni Kovekalou plus five more points from Jalibert’s boot. However, Edinburgh concluded the scoring when Mark Bennett raced in and Simon Hickey added the extras. That perseverance was one of the positives that drew praise from Groom.

“I think we had some really good moments in the game and I think we had some really poor moments in the game. When you’re playing against a top side, when those poor moments come, they hurt you. Credit to them, there weren’t many times when they wasted their chances and they got a win against us when I thought there were times when we played really well”, he said.

“We showed a lot of effort and were really brave in some areas. We actually defended pretty well one-on-one, despite being quite loose with the ball at times. They have some exciting players in their back line and you’re giving them lots of space. But I thought our sheer doggedness at times was good. It’s been the hallmark of our season that the boys put in some big hits, and some guys were really batting hard. We scored two tries. I felt that maybe if we had executed our setpiece bit better, we would have had a proper game out of it.”