Disappointing Performance Puts Edinburgh Play-Off Hopes in Jeopardy
In a game which saw veteran Ross Ford grace the Murrayfield turf for possibly the last time in Edinburgh colours, Richard Cockerill’s men seemed unable to get a foothold in the game, and so Ulster were able to secure themselves a home semi-final in the PRO14.
It was a tough night for Edinburgh, with Ulster emerging the winners at BT Murrayfield. (Photo: Edinburgh Rugby twitter)
It was far from the game plan Richard Cockerill would have been hoping for his team to deploy, as Edinburgh seemed unable to get the better of Ulster in any aspect of the game at a chilly BT Murrayfield on a tiresome April Friday night.
Speaking shortly following full-time, the Head Coach expressed his disappointment in his side’s performance which resulted in a 7-29 loss for his Edinburgh men: “We’re normally tougher to play against, but in that first half we didn’t control field position, we missed kicks to touch.
“We just did not function. Ultimately on what was a big occasion we did not perform. That is the fact of it.”
One of the greatest sources of menace to the Edinburgh defensive set-up was Ulster star-man Jacob Stockdale who, despite starting at fullback for the first time this season, looked rather comfortable in the number fifteen shirt.
Ulster were the only ones to put points on the scoreboard for the whole of the first half. First was a successful penalty shot at goal courtesy of first choice scrum half John Cooney.
Second was when Jordi Murphy went over the line in the far corner for the Irishmen, and despite a slight break in play to allow referee Nigel Owens to consult his TMO – to check whether Grant Gilchrist had ripped the ball in a tackle, or if it was an Ulster knock on – the try was awarded, and the boot of Cooney was able to add the extras.
The Edinburgh forwards consistently tried to batter the Ulster line into tiredness, but the strong carries of the likes of Magnus Bradbury, Pierre Schoeman and Hamish Watson were not enough to give the capital side any type of foothold in the attacking game.
Darcy Graham also looked to be a man under some targeted pressure, as every time the young Hawick stalwart found himself with the ball, he was confronted with the sight of a tight Ulster wall which looked to have no intentions of giving him any space to run into with ball in hand.
A shot at goal from Jaco Van Der Walt – the result of a penalty to Edinburgh for Ulster’s Luke Marshall going off his feet at the breakdown – was unusually unsuccessful. In fact, it caused a chaotic scramble for recovery from both sides, as the ball hit off the right upright.
It was not an impressive outing for the South African stand off, who was replaced by Simon Hickey after just 32 minutes.
The last real attempt to catch the Ulster defence unawares came when Schoeman took it upon himself to take the ball through a gap just big enough for the front row – an act which did leave some wondering if he had momentarily forgotten he was a prop – but with no support in close enough range, he was brought done just outside the opposition 22.
Ulster scored once more before the first 40 minutes came to a close as Robert Baloucoune accepted a pass from Billy Burns on the far touchline, with the winger then able to get the better of the quick reflexes of both Darcy Graham and Duhan Van Der Merwe to jot down in the corner.
Cooney was unable to add the conversion, so the teams ran in at half time with Edinburgh trailing 0-15.
The teams reemerged for much of the same in the second half it seemed, as Cockerill’s men had a further 14 points scored against them – much to the disgruntlement of the Edinburgh portion of the 7856 fans in attendance at BT Murrayfield.
The two Ulster converted tries – the first from winger Rob Lyttle and the second from stand off Billy Burns just minutes away from full time – were split up by one singular score from the Edinburgh men as replacement John Barclay found space seemingly out of nowhere, and ran in the try unchallenged. Hickey converted the score to give his side a lone converted try on the board.
It will not have been the way that the capital side wanted to send off club and country legendary hooker Ross Ford, and it will throw up a number of issues which will have to be sufficiently addressed if Edinburgh are to move on in their development.
Cockerill’s men have to improve on such a calamitous outing before they come up against Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun in two weeks’ time, for a strong win in the west could salvage their play-off hopes.
Edinburgh: D Graham; D Hoyland, M Bennett, M Scott, D van der Merwe; J van der Walt, H Pyrgos; P Schoeman, S McInally, W Nel, B Toolis, G Gilchrist, M Bradbury, H Watson, V Mata. Subs: R Ford, A Dell, S Berghan, C Hunter-Hill, J Barclay, C Shiel, S Hickey, G Taylor.
Ulster: J Stockdale; R Baloucoune, L Marshall, S McCloskey, R Lyttle; W Burns, J Cooney; E O’Sullivan, R Herring, M Moore, I Henderson, K Treadwell, N Timoney, J Murphy, M Coetzee. Subs: J Andrew, A Warwick, R Kane, A O’Connor, S Reidy, D Shanahan, P Nelson, A Kernohan.
Referee: Nigel Owens
Edinburgh: Try: Barclay. Con: Hickey.
Ulster: Tries: Murphy, Baloucoune, Lyttle, Burns. Cons: Cooney 3. Pen: Cooney.
Scoring sequence (Edinburgh first): (0-3), (0-8), (0-10), (0-15) HT (0-20), (0-22), (5-22), (7-22), (7-27), (7-29) FT.