Until last Friday night, the Edinburgh squad could at least clutch on to the idea that their continued involvement in the European Challenge Cup might salvage something positive from a season which has been stagnating since at least mid-January.
But a haphazard defeat by La Rochelle five days ago means that the capital outfit are now out of that competition too, and must stumble their way through their remaining four matches in the Guinness Pro12 schedule with nothing to play for, except pride.
It is true that they could pick up silverware if they manage to turn around a 13-point first-leg deficit to claim the 1872 Cup when they take on Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun on the last day of the season – but not only is that highly unlikely, it is also akin to being rewarded a half-starved goldfish at the funfair when you have been shooting for a six-foot cuddly teddy bear.
The 1872 Cup is a great bit of fun, and there is bragging rights attached, but it has no real currency in terms of measuring the true worth of a team – especially now that the return leg has been moved away from the traditional festive double-header slot [right in the heart of the season] which had successfully captured the public’s imagination in years gone by.
We might say that Edinburgh’s season is over – but, in truth, it is debatable whether it ever really got started.
Having got rid of head coach Alan Solomons just four weeks into the campaign, Duncan Hodge has been lumbered with a poisoned chalice for the last six months – and hampered with injuries to several crucial players in key positions, he has struggled to uncover the magic formula needed to turn the club’s fortunes around. Successes over Stade Francais and Harlequins in Europe provided brief moments of respite, but ultimately served to reinforce the sense of frustration that league form has been so woeful.
The team has lost nine out of their last ten Pro12 matches, the one success in that run stretching back to November of last year was over lowly Zebre on 31 December.
We now know that Hodge is being bumped back down to an assistant’s job next season so that Richard Cockerill can attempt to breathe some life into the club. The new man in charge will be trying to keep one eye on what is going on at Edinburgh at the moment but, given he has just been appointed head coach of French giants Toulon to the end of the season, it is unlikely that he is paying that much attention.
In the circumstances, the last thing any of the players will want to be doing is sitting down with the press to talk through their hopes for the final month of the campaign. So, all credit should go to Glenn Bryce for stepping up to the plate, and managing to smile his way through the ordeal.
“It obviously is hard to stay positive but you’ve just got to keep training hard and hopefully one day it is all going to come together,” said the full-back. “After each defeat we come in and analyse the game and when people watch it live it looks like massive errors, but when you are watching it back and breaking it down, you can see that it is minor things which are killing us.”
Knowing what’s wrong is one thing, but putting it right is a different matter altogether, and Bryce reckons a lack of experience in the squad might be a crucial factor.
“When I was at Glasgow, there were loads of players with 60-odd caps so as a young player I was able to pick their brains all the time, and in training they were able to help me out with the finer details,” reflected the 25-year-old, who made the switch to the east of the country last summer in pursuit of more game time.
“At Edinburgh it is a young squad and we’re still trying to get that experience. It is not going to happen overnight, but Richard Cockerill is coming in and he will want to put his stamp on things and it will be good to see how he works given all that experience he’s got in the Premiership and with Toulon.”
Under Solomons’ watch, the team lost influential figures such as Greig Laidlaw, Matt Scott, David Denton, Tim Visser and Nick De Luca, without proven replacements being recruited. Mark Bennett will bring some iron to the backline when he arrives next season, but more firepower must be brought on board if Edinburgh want to become a genuine force.