Richard Cockerill '˜very proud' as Edinburgh beat Newcastle to top pool

Richard Cockerill said he was 'very proud to be the Edinburgh coach' after watching his side secure a potentially crucial away win at Newcastle Falcons which kept them top of Pool 5 in the Heineken Champions Cup, writes Duncan Smith.

Richard Cockerill says Edinburgh are hitting new heights both on and off the pitch. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA
Richard Cockerill says Edinburgh are hitting new heights both on and off the pitch. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA

Second-half tries from James Johnstone and Duhan van der Merwe helped the Scots to a 21-8 victory at Kingston Park to boost their hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of Europe’s elite competition.

Montpellier’s victory over Toulon means it is shaping up to be a fascinating potential decider with former Scotland coach Vern Cotter’s side in the final round of games on 18 January.

Sign up to our Rugby Union newsletter

A week before that Cockerill will take his side to 
Toulon, who he coached before joining Edinburgh, and yesterday’s result in the north-east of England keeps things very much in his players’ hands.

“It’s a great result for us,” said the coach, who was able to savour victory on what was his 48th birthday. “We had not won away from home in eight months so that is pleasing. We came here to win, we had a plan, we made some errors, but credit to the boys. They stuck to the task and over 80 minutes were the better team.

“We are developing as a team on and off the field. I’m very proud to be the Edinburgh coach tonight, they did really well.”

Cockerill still expects the trip to the south of France next month to be a big test for Edinburgh, despite the fact the three-time European champions have now been detached at the bottom of Pool 5.

“I hope Toulon might give up on qualifying and concentrate on the [French Top 14] league but they are Toulon at the Stade de Mayol and I know them well,” said the Englishman.

“What a great experience it will be for our boys. They go there top of the group and trying to win. We are Edinburgh. Good things happen if you work hard and good things are happening to us just now.”

It was by no means a perfect performance from Edinburgh, who had to battle hard right to the end to subdue a spirited if limited Falcons outfit and, importantly, then deny them the consolation of a losing bonus point.

“We’ve got a good forward pack and we’ve just got to cut out errors,” added Cockerill. “I felt [8-6 down] at half-time with the whole group that we were just sort of waiting for the game to happen.

“But I think in the second half we took the game by the scruff of the neck and we deserved to win. It was just about not letting them get anything out of the game as well.

“It was good to see travelling fans, people in Edinburgh kit, fans chanting the team’s name, it’s new territory on and off the field for me. It’s a good night for Edinburgh Rugby.”