Scarlets 12-20 Edinburgh: Richard Cockerill delivers half-time rocket

Matt Scott scores Edinburgh's first try against Scarlets. Picture: Simon King/INPHO/REX/Shutterstock
Matt Scott scores Edinburgh's first try against Scarlets. Picture: Simon King/INPHO/REX/Shutterstock
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Richard Cockerill, the Edinburgh coach, has a well-deserved reputation for his fiery rhetoric and lived up to it with a half-time roasting that brought the desired response from his team, who turned a 12-point deficit into a win thanks to 20 unanswered points in the second period.

“I was a bit disappointed with the first half and we had a few tough words,” Cockerill said afterwards. “The reaction, to be fair, and to win that second half 20 to zip is a massive half of rugby for us because we are not used to being that resilient, coming back and getting those big wins.

“There was a bit of shouting and encouragement at half-time about what we are about. That was not Edinburgh rugby in the first half, not what we want to be known for.

“Having had a big week last week and a game we could have won [against Munster in the Champions Cup quarter-final] to go to that first half was pretty disgusting from us.

“The second half was the complete opposite, but what we won’t do is paper over the first half with the second. I am happy that we have got the result because it is a huge, huge result.

“We have won nothing, qualified for nothing, though. We are happy with the result because it is a big, big result for us as a club. This is a very hard place to come and win but we have still won nothing and done nothing.

“We still have Ulster, who are a very good side, and Glasgow. Scarlets have on the face of it two easier games, everything to play for. It gives us a lifeline to qualify for the play-offs or Europe. It is still in our hands. If we had lost tonight, it would not have been.”

The result moved Edinburgh back to within three points of Ulster, who they play next week and six clear of their hosts, who are now battling to have any chance of making the knockout stage and are struggling to even get to the European play-off.

With Treviso claiming a late draw in Dublin, however, Edinburgh remain in fourth place.

They had always known it was going to be an uphill challenge. The Scarlets had only lost one game at home this season and were able to welcome back half a dozen of the Wales Grand Slam side as they tried to mount their own late-season challenge.

Against that Edinburgh had gone with pretty much the same side that had run Munster so agonisingly close the week before, although that was at Murrayfield and – despite two Champions Cup wins on the road – they have not won outside Scotland in the Guinness Pro14.

There was also a late blow for them with Chris Dean failing a fitness test and dropping out, though all that meant was that Scotland international Matt Scott came into the side for his second start since recovering from a long-term concussion.

The Scarlets made their intentions clear from the kick-off, running the first ball at Edinburgh for four minutes continuously before they lost patience and kicked for position.

It was a sign of things to come as a classic inside ball from stand-off Dan Jones to Leigh Halfpenny, the full-back, cut the Edinburgh defence to pieces with Gareth Davies, the scrum-half, going over.

Edinburgh did manage to win some pressure but a quick drop out caught them napping for the Scarlets to race upfield where they worked wing Steff Evans clear along the touchline with Jonathan Davies, his centre partner, in support to take the scoring pass.

The Scots did manage to get Ken Owens, the Scarlets captain, sin binned for taking down a driving maul but stand-off Jaco van der Walt missed the penalty, leaving them pointless for Cockerill’s team talk. Edinburgh full-back Darcy Graham was the spark for some self-belief with a couple of mazy runs though the middle that unsettled the home side before the forwards took over, mauled their way to the line and Hamish Watson broke off the back to send Scott in for the score that brought them back into the game. It was still looking good for the Scarlets until Halfpenny threw a pass in midfield straight to Van der Walt, handing the Edinburgh player a simple run in for the go-ahead score. Add his conversion and a late penalty and the home side did not even have the consolation of a losing bonus point.

“We were playing like the game was already lost,” Cockerill added. “That is not good enough, we are not accepting it. If people did not want to be in the battle, they could not go out for the second ball.

“It shows that if they put their minds to it we are a good team and when we put our best game out there we will compete and in the second half we did, we pretty well controlled it.”