Departing centre Matt Scott did get a try, and could have bagged a second, but it wasn’t the dream farewell he was hoping for as Edinburgh slumped to a depressing 21-17 defeat by Cardiff Blues and slipped to a ninth-place finish in the Guinness Pro12.
The match brought down the curtain on Scott’s five years with his hometown club as he heads off to join Gloucester in the summer.
The 25-year-old was a picture of frustration when he spoke to the media after a game which leaves a black cloud hanging over a campaign that had begun with four straight victories.
Edinburgh looked well on course for the bonus-point win they needed to keep their faint hopes of a top-six finish as they ran in three tries to take a 17-7 half-time lead. However, a shockingly complacent start to the second half allowed Cardiff to take a grip on proceedings and snatch the win that takes them up to seventh.
“It was a really frustrating second half. We seemed to be defending for most of it,” said Scott. “Whenever we had the ball we were a bit sluggish and off the pace.
“You just can’t give away penalties at the breakdown and defend multiple phases in your own 22, then kick out and do the same over and over again. In the second half that’s what happened.”
While the previous weekend’s defeat at Munster had effectively extinguished hopes of Champions Cup rugby next term, Edinburgh were still out to finish their season on a high and post a declaration of intent for next season.
It was also billed as a chance for Scott and other departees to finish their Edinburgh careers on a high. As well as the Scotland centre, players like midfield partner Andries Strauss and full-back Dougie Fife were also heading for pastures new after the game.
For Fife it will most likely be his extraordinary encounter with a selfie-taking streaker in the second half that lives longer in the memory than the game itself.
“You can say all you want about players leaving and making it a sentimental game but, at the end of the day it’s not enjoyable if you don’t win,” lamented Scott.
“In the first half we played some good rugby which shows what we can do when we play well but, again, we didn’t play for 80 minutes and that’s extremely frustrating.
“It’s a shame for guys like Andries [Strauss] who’s played his last game of rugby to go out like that, especially when we were in such a strong position.”
Hamish Watson had opened the scoring for Edinburgh before Scott got his farewell try when he pounced on Damien Hoyland’s break to surge over. He looked set to double his tally when he chased through his intelligent grubber but Tom Brown showed a winger’s predatory instinct to get in before Scott for the touchdown.
“I could have had a couple but Tom was a bit selfish,” said Scott with a wry grin. “If I hadn’t had one already I might have been having some choice words with him. It’s great scoring tries any time and it was nice to do so in my last game. But my overall feeling is frustration that it wasn’t a try that helped us to win.”
A first-half riposte from Ray Lee-Lo and second-half scores from Cam Dolan and Garyn Smith sealed Edinburgh’s fate. The difference on the scoreboard was Gareth Anscombe’s three conversions to one by Jason Tovey but that would be harsh on the Edinburgh stand-off, who unluckily hit the post with his two misses and was again a stand-out performer.
Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons was visibly seething afterwards with the limp performance and Scott says the team-mates he leaves behind can expect repercussions for this dud display.
“It will be a hard pre-season now that Alan has told the boys it’s going to be a tough regime,” said Scott. “So they’ve got an enjoyable summer to look forward to I think! But that’s what’s needed. Our league position hasn’t changed so something’s got to change on the training pitch, but that’s for the coaches to work on.”
Scott has new challenges of his own now and added: “I’m just waiting to see if I’m going on the [Japan] tour with Scotland. If not I’d like to get moved down [to Gloucester], my contract starts on 1 July. But if I am going on tour I’ll have to move down a little later because I’ll be up here training.”
Asked what state he feels he is leaving the club in, Scott replied: “There wasn’t much between ninth and sixth this year and we’re certainly closer to the play-offs than we ever have been and I suppose in that way we’re moving forwards.
“But it’s just a shame that we gave ourselves too much to do almost in the last couple of weeks of the season. Points that we let slip earlier in the year come back to haunt you and unfortunately we made those mistakes earlier in the season.
“To go to Cork and beat Munster away then beat Cardiff with a bonus point is a tough ask. I think the club is stronger than when Alan first came in for sure and I think he’s done a tremendous job and turned us around from where we were.
“I think we’re a tough team to beat now but there is still some work to go.”