On a disappointing afternoon in Bordeaux the one shining bright spot for Edinburgh was a cracker of a try which almost defied the laws of physics.
Wing Damien Hoyland was delighted to get on the scoresheet and isn’t bothered that most of the praise being dished out was for creator supreme Darcy Graham, whose touchline defying work set up the score in the 52nd minute which brought Edinburgh to within six points of the crack French outfit at 17-11 after a woeful start had seen them go 14-0 down in the first nine minutes.
“You’ve always got to stay alert when you’ve got someone like him on the ball,” said Hoyland, who had done good work down his left wing in the lead up before popping up on the right and taking the pass yards out as Scotland star Graham got it away under pressure and on the spin with one boot a hair’s breadth from touch.
“How he managed it I don’t know, but you always expect it because if anyone can pull something like that off then it is Darcy. I’ll get him a beer very soon, I’m sure.”
There were other decent moments from the Scots on the day but, after a convoluted and restricted journey to France due to Covid-19 restrictions, they were caught cold in the sunshine and were playing catch-up from then as cashed up Bordeaux-Begles comfortably made it through to the European Challenge Cup semi-finals and ended an Edinburgh season which, due to the prolonged shut down, spanned almost a full calendar year’s worth of days.
Hoyland still reflected on it as an opportunity missed hot on the heels of another blow in losing the home Guinness Pro14 semi-final to Ulster.
“It’s a funny one. We gave them an early start but then did all the right things to give ourselves the best chance to win the game, and it is way more frustrating when you do that then come up short,” said the 26-year-old who won four full Scotland caps between 2015 and 2017.
“In some respects, we were unlucky but with the amount of mistakes we made against a top five team in Europe, they were going to punish us.”
Punish them they did through those early scores by Santiago Cordero and Jean-Baptiste Dubie and the game management of star stand-off Matthieu Jalibert.
“It is bitterly disappointing in many respects because we were in with a chance, we had done the right things and we had the right game-strategy, and we were so close,” added Hoyland.
“But the thing we can take from this, and we took it from last time [against Ulster] is that we are on the up. From these two games, there are a lot of things we are going to be better at. And going into next season we will be gunning for it, and we know what works.”
The unconfirmed start date for the 2020-21 Pro14 season is the weekend after next but no fixtures have been released. Hoyland, who can look back on an injury-free season interrupted for different unforeseen reasons after a couple of years previous blighted by niggles, is looking ahead with optimism and hoping to challenge Graham and Duhan van der Merwe as the premier wing pairing.
“I’m pretty happy with how I played. I have been training really hard and waiting for this opportunity, and I’m really glad I got it here in such a big game,” he continued. “It is now about continuing to push the other guys – Duhan, Darcy and Blair [Kinghorn] – who are bloody good players, but Cockers [head coach Richard Cockerill] has made it clear that if someone takes their opportunity then they will keep their place.
“It’s all about the competition because that is what keeps pushing all of our standards up.”
Hoyland is now primed and ready for a fresh campaign as and when some clarity is forthcoming during what is an uncertain time due to the resurgence of the virus.
“Back home Saturday night and off Sunday, then we’ll be waiting for a message form Cockers to say what the plan is for the next few weeks,” explained the former Scotland Sevens start.
“I’d imagine the plan is to take a couple of days to recuperate, get our heads back together, but it is only two weeks until our next game so we can’t switch off too much. But it will be nice to get a couple of days to refresh our minds.
“We’re definitely ready. The boys are fit. We’ve trained really hard and there’s not been that much rugby played, so we’ll take a few days off now, and given the last couple of results we are desperate to get back to winning ways. We just want to right some wrongs and show everybody how good a team we can be.”
Edinburgh should have lots of games when their Scotland contingent is away on national duty over the winter, which opens an opportunity to Hoyland although he wants to be back in dark blue and challenging Graham and Van der Merwe for a place in the big club fixtures.
“The way I see things, my philosophy is to take things day-by-day,” he said. “Now my focus is to try and recover and be in the best condition I can be going into next week. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t desperate to play our next game. But I just have to be the best I can be and take it from there.
“My body is feeling good now and I’m ready to go whenever the next opportunity is. I wasn’t in my best form and then I had those injuries, but because of that I definitely feel I learnt a lot and think I am a better player now.”
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