Perhaps when Edinburgh have qualified for the Champions Cup, we will look back on this game as a pivotal moment in the season when Edinburgh were teetering on the edge of the abyss before pulling back.
Everyone needs luck, as coach Alan Solomons conceded after the match, but Edinburgh rugby need it more than most. For half-an-hour the home team were terrible, unable to execute the basics of the game while the Scarlets dominated proceedings.
Three times in the opening ten minutes Edinburgh runners were isolated and picked off by the scavenging Scarlets breakaways. Edinburgh are unable to produce quick ruck ball so forwards coming round the corner can’t time their run onto the ball which means that the big men receive the ball standing still. The Edinburgh set scrum dominated, which was just as well because the lineout was a mess.
In the opening half Edinburgh went like this at the sidelines: lineout won but scrappy useless ball, lineout overthrown, lineout lost, lineout won but Edinburgh’s driving maul is turned over and the ball is lost. They lost two more throws in the final quarter of the match. Edinburgh get criticism for not throwing the ball about but when you can’t execute the basics set piece plays you have no chance.
And in the space of seven minutes at the end of the first half the game was turned inside out when two howlers from the Scarlets gifted Edinburgh two tries. The diving catch is Liam Williams’ party piece but he misjudged Duncan Weir clever cross field kick and Mike Allen only had to touch down.
And just before half time Rhys Patchell, newly transferred from Cardiff Blues, misjudged his own clearance kick which skittered along the floor, ricocheted off an Edinburgh leg and ended up at the feet of Magnus Bradbury who picked it up and ran to the line unopposed in what turned out to be an eventful match for the Edinburgh number eight.
That try was followed by a yellow card for a tip tackle on the Scarlets’ lock David Bulbring, which saw Bradbury exert impressive power if questionable judgement.
It was probably the right decision but it could have been red and Bradbury must have had an anxious few moments while the referee checked the video evidence.
“Yes, I was initially (worried) but I felt the ref handled it quite well. He was on his back slightly. If it was slightly further it could have been a red and quite nasty but it was a pretty fair call,” said Bradbury.
Edinburgh hadn’t looked likely to score before those two gifts from heaven and they didn’t look remotely like scoring after them either but at least the twin tries, however fortuitous, breathed some belief back into this team who walked a little taller in the second half. They defended their line well against two Scarlets’ five-metre lineouts and if the visitors eventually crossed the Edinburgh line at the third time of asking, the referee was unable to spot the ball under the sea of bodies and Edinburgh had another little slice of luck.
“From last season we did not finish games well,” Bradbury conceded. “We got our heads in gear, after my yellow card actually, and when I came back it felt like we were an entirely different team. The defence, you saw the last ten, fifteen minutes, was really good.”
Edinburgh arguably deserved a little luck, but they would be unwise to place that commodity at the centre of their season-long strategy.