Alan Solomons hails Edinburgh bench after London Welsh win
Edinburgh head coach pleased with second-half performance as the Gunners maintain 100 per cent record in Europe
Alan Solomons praised the Edinburgh bench as the Gunners came from behind to defeat London Welsh 25-13 at BT Murrayfield.
The win maintained the capital club’s 100 per cent record in pool four of the European Challenge Cup ahead of the reverse fixture in Oxford next Sunday and the Edinburgh head coach was full of admiration
“I’d like to compliment the guys who came off the bench, because I thought they made a massive difference—they really, really played well,” Solomons said.
“That key scrum down in the right-hand corner, I thought John Andress and Neil Cochrane came on and made a huge difference in that scrum, which was fantastic.
“It was great to see Anton Bresler playing for the first time in six weeks. You can see he’s rusty. He had two restarts he didn’t get a hold of.
“It’s great to see Stuart McInally playing again for Edinburgh—very unlucky with that try when he went through the ruck and lost the ball in the contact, but I thought that was a boy who has played very little rugby.
“I thought Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Greig Tonks injected a bit of pace in there and we looked pretty dangerous with the two of them playing.”
A second-minute penalty from outside-half Tom Heathcote gave Edinburgh an early lead before what was an error-strewn first-half performance that also included a gift of a try for Exiles wing Rhys Crane from an interception before the former Bath Rugby and Sale Sharks man was yellow carded for causing a collision in the air.
Gordon Ross, the former Scotland international who captained London Welsh on the day, chipped in with eight points off the kicking tee against his old club, and Solomons admitted it was disappointing opening 40 minutes.
“We played very poorly in the first half,” he added.
“We made far too many errors, both in terms of knocking balls on, losing ball in contact, not finding touch with two penalties, so we made a rod for our own back in the first half.
“I said at half-time [London Welsh] had done nothing in the first half. They got an intercept try, and we were silly there because they were pushing hard and we should never have pushed the pass there, which we did and was crazy.
“All we had to do was be calm, get into their half, hold on to the ball, cut down our error rate and the points would come, and they did.”
After a few home truths at the interval, Edinburgh came out with a bang and were quickly back into the game as tighthead prop WP Nel scored the first of a trio of tries from front row players, as replacement loosehead Neil Cochrane and replacement hooker Rory Sutherland also crossed the line in a late charge mid-way through the the final quarter
With Heathcote struggling with a leg problem and replaced by Greig Tonks 15 minutes into the second half, kicking duties fell to replacement scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, who sliced widely with a penalty-goal effort, but recovered to land both of his conversion attempts.
And Solomons was able to take some positives despite missing out on the bonus-point win.
“The disappointing thing is they left that fifth point out there,” he said.
“We had opportunities. Stuart was unlucky to lose the ball in contact and Tonksy went for broke.
“I was very pleased with the second half and the resilience shown. In fairness, I also know they’re missing a number of players, but we’re missing eight or nine players and to see our bench come on and do so well it’s a good sign.
“We’ve got 23 guys out there that can compete at a good level. That’s a positive for us.”
Despite the performance in the first half, the South African coach had confidence in his team to turn around the 13-6 half-time scoreline as they shut out Justin Burnell’s side that was missing former All Blacks scrum-half Piri Weepu and experienced outside-half Olly Barkley.
“I thought the second half we were going to win the game,” he added.
“After 10 minutes of the second half they were gone: couldn’t get out of their 22, couldn’t stop momentum, they were struggling. So I thought it was a matter of time that we could get it.
“Half-time we needed to get right, but our first 10 minutes answered that.
“The worrying time for me was at half-time. I said to the players we just haven’t fired a shot, made far too many mistakes, and we gifted them their try.
“What we did in the second half: simply get down their end, hold the ball and the battle to stop momentum then I thought the points would come, which they did.”