Richard Cockerill stays grounded but Edinburgh fly high
Glasgow have been streets ahead of the capital side as the country’s pre-eminent pro team for the best part of a decade now but, as Edinburgh took their streak to eight wins in ten and sealed a fourth 1872 Cup in five years, an intriguing oddity has developed into a full blown, undeniable hoodoo.
As they had in the 23-7 win at BT Murrayfield seven days before, Edinburgh seized control in the forwards, bullied the setpiece and ran out comfortable winners. Expansive rugby was rare on the ground but it was by no means a one-dimensional display by the simply superior visitors.
It was only their second win at Scotstoun and a second in Glasgow in 15 years at a venue where the Warriors had only lost to Scarlets in the Guinness Pro14 semi-final and Saracens in the Heineken Champions Cup in 2018, so the plaudits were well earned.
“We just have to keep our feet on the ground,” said Cockerill. “But I want to celebrate good performances. The boys were good tonight and they should take all the credit.”
As the year comes to an end it is Edinburgh who have bounce and swagger while Dave Rennie’s Glasgow are left with a bit of head scratching to do but a look at the respective conferences show the Warriors still top of A while Cockerill’s side remain fifth in B.
“We needed it,” said the Edinburgh coach. “It’s the first time we’ve won away in the league this season. We just have to back it up. There’s a long way to go. We have to keep battling away. The settled part of our squad has been really good for us, especially on short turnarounds.”
Edinburgh edged a hard-fought first half in blustery conditions with two Jaco van der Walt penalties to one from Adam Hastings the difference.
There was a feeling if Glasgow could get up a head of steam on their own patch it would be a different story from the previous week but they simply couldn’t find any flow.
That was down to a multitude of reasons – indiscipline, slackness, an inspired home defence and the loss of key, experienced men like Stuart Hogg (hip) and Alex Dunbar (thigh) to what is hoped are minor injuries at the break and early in the second half.
Oli Kebble being sin-binned as the Glasgow scrum continued to creak didn’t help matters and, after a Bill Mata surge to the line, the ball was moved to skipper Stuart McInally for the decisive try.
Van der Walt kicked the lead out to 13 points before a late George Horne try gave the hosts the slightest of sniffs. Hastings had to be quick with the conversion attempt but pulled wide as the wind continued to swirl, thus ending hopes of getting within a converted score of victory in the dying minutes and also a losing bonus point.
Cockerill will now face a balancing act this week of resting a raft of the international stars who have rode back to lift the club’s season with back-to-back wins in Europe and the inter-city double header, while knowing that points must be gobbled up when the Southern Kings come calling next week before the trip to Toulon.
McInally will be one who gets a week off and former hooker Cockerill was effusive in his praise for the captain.
“He is awesome. He’s been our best player, best trainer, great man for the team, great skipper,” said the coach. “Whether he’s playing for us or Scotland, his effort and attitude are exactly the same. He’s a good man to have and I’m pleased he’s our captain.
“In autumn he had a week off before [the Tests]. He’ll have a week off this week. We’ll manage his workload. He’s a 27-year-old man, he’s in the prime of his life.
“They are good lads and if they’re conditioned properly and looked after they can do that. He wants to play for Scotland and go to a World Cup in his prime. Hopefully he’ll be able to do that.
“When you get to the World Cup you have to back up game after game after game. And win them. That’s how it is. Hopefully, we’re instilling that mentality into this squad, which benefits everyone.”
Cockerill feels that the last few weeks have added more building blocks to what he hopes to ultimately achieve with Edinburgh.
“We are getting a group of guys who are getting that emotional attachment with their team-mates and the club,” he said. “The South African boys look like they’re enjoying themselves. They’re good players, good men and we have a good vibe about the team. They are enjoying themselves.”
A now dead rubber on the last weekend of the regular season remains in the 1872 Cup series at Scotstoun. Surely after the past couple of weeks Cockerill won’t be claiming to be underdogs again? “100 per cent. We’ve only won here twice in 15 years,” he said, with a grin as wide as the Clyde.