Mike Blair unsure on how to tackle Edinburgh Rugby indiscipline ahead of likely sell-out against Ulster

If the hallmark of a good team is winning games when you are not playing well then Edinburgh are perhaps still on course to achieve something special this season.

Edinburgh's Marshall Sykes was sent off against Zebre after his shoulder made contact with the head of Danilo Fischetti.  (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)
Edinburgh's Marshall Sykes was sent off against Zebre after his shoulder made contact with the head of Danilo Fischetti. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

On Friday night they came perilously close to losing their unbeaten home record to the only team in the league without a win but they rallied to pull a bonus-point victory out of the bag against Zebre.

That they played more than half the match with only 14 players was a source of both satisfaction and frustration for Mike Blair, the Edinburgh coach.

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Blair was delighted with the resolve his side showed while numerically disadvantaged but knows that the ill discipline must be nipped in the bud.

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Marshall Sykes’ red card for a dangerous clear-out early in the second half meant the capital side were a man short for the final 36 minutes but their senior players stepped up to the plate, and tries from Pierre Schoeman and Mark Bennett and a penalty from Jaco van der Walt during that period secured a 29-26 win against Italian visitors who led early in the second half and then drew level with six minutes remaining.

Edinburgh also had to contend with the sin-binning of Glen Young for a high tackle in the first half and Blair admitted he was a little perplexed about how to cure their disciplinary ills.

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“It’s one of the things we’ve got to fix and it’s not immediately obvious how you do that because it’s not one player, it’s across the team that we have a few of these moments from time to time,” said the coach.

“Sometimes when you talk about it more it happens more, so sometimes it’s better just to ignore it and hope that it fixes itself. But obviously giving territory away like that isn’t ideal.”

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Edinburgh's Glen Young was shown a yellow card for a high tackle on Zebre winger Simone Gesi. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)
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It’s Ulster next for Edinburgh, a huge game which is likely to be the first sell-out at the DAM Health Stadium.

Blair is hoping his side can recover their abrasive edge in time for next Saturday because he felt there were moments against Zebre in which they were off the pace.

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“Our physicality around the breakdown and in attack and in defence was missing a little bit, and that has huge implications for how you’re trying to win the game,” he said.

“They got the bollocking at half-time and that didn’t work. But I want us to learn from the good game management we showed – what did we do well, how did we allow ourselves to win the game?

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“But there were obviously a couple of moments there where I thought we weren’t sharp. We weren’t mentally sharp, we lost a quick kick-off and they were first to a lot of 50-50 balls on the ground.

“I don’t know if we were conserving energy or what it was but I do want to reiterate that there were positives in that win. We were down to 14 men for huge amounts of the game, with the red card and the yellow card before that, and we were really pleased to come out with five points.”

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Friday night’s other results – Ulster lost at home to Munster while Glasgow Warriors went down in South Africa to the Stormers – means the scramble for top four places will go to the wire.

Leinster are well clear in first place but only three points separate the teams from second to sixth with two rounds of the regular season remaining. The top eight qualify for the play-offs but top four secures a home tie.

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“We will be right up for the game next week,” added Blair. “I believe it will be the first sell-out at the DAM Health and the crowd are going to really be behind us and we’re going to put a performance on the pitch that they’re going to be proud of.”



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