Edinburgh V Bath
Despite eventually falling short against a powerful and well drilled Bath outfit, Edinburgh showed plenty of grit, determination and physicality in tonight’s pre-season friendly at Meggetland.
Playing in front of a 4200-strong sold out Meggetland crowd, the home side showed plenty of flashes of creativity in attack as well as bullish intensity in defence which so often proved the difference throughout last season’s rise in form.
Although clear cut chances were few and far between in an opening 40 minutes which saw both teams struggle to shake their pre-season rust, it was the visitors who took the lead after 26 minutes when prop Nathan Catt wriggled over from only metres out.
However, Edinburgh – who’d on a number of occasions been only a fingertip away from breaching Bath’s stringent defence – did find the scoreboard just shy of half-time when replacement stand-off Jason Baggott slotted home a simple penalty.
Both sides made vast changes at the break, with Edinburgh alone fielding 13 different players, and the energy displayed by Richard Cockerill’s second unit was clear to see.
Chris Dean – who found himself in the unfamiliar position of left-wing – crossed the whitewash on 45 minutes to give his side a five-point lead at 10-5, however this was to be Edinburgh’s last points of the evening as British and Irish Lion centre Jamie Roberts crashed over to make it 10-12.
Although his side found themselves on the wrong end of the score line, Head Coach Richard Cockerill was pleased with the run out, and praised the players physicality throughout the contest.
“It was a good hit out for us,” said Cockerill. “There was a obviously a bit of rustiness from both teams, but I thought physically and defensively we did some good things.
"We’ve got a lot to improve on, but it’s a good starting point for us. There were 20 plus turnovers in the game, which was a little bit frustrating. I think if we had controlled the ball a bit better, we could have been on the right end of the result.
As much as I hate losing, it was a good start for us. The young guys who were making their first appearances tonight did a really good job. Jack Blain on the wing and Callum Atkinson in the second-row did well.
One player who was far removed from making his debut was experienced Scotland international back-row, Hamish Watson. Making his first appearance since having season-ending shoulder surgery in April, the all action openside was at his destructive best on both sides of the ball.
Winning turnovers at the breakdown, whist singlehandedly slicing through Bath’s defence, Watson was, at times, a joy to behold – an encouraging sight for both Edinburgh and Scotland supporters.
“He’s back after having shoulder surgery. He’s had a full pre-season and played very, very well in that first-half,” said Cockerill.
For a number of new recruits, it was their first run out in an Edinburgh jersey. Scotland internationalists Luke Hamilton and Henry Pyrgos both showed their intent in an encouraging second-half showing which was undoubtedly capped off by Chris Dean’s well-worked try.
With an invigorated pack darting for Bath’s whitewash, the ball was eventually flung wide to Dean, who shook the defensive efforts of his opposite man to touch down in the corner.
It’s now exactly two weeks until Edinburgh’s first Guinness PRO14 fixture; a tricky trip to face a much-improved Ospreys outfit. Whilst Cockerill won’t lose much sleep over tonight’s loss, the Head Coach stressed that his side have much to improve upon before hitting road in round one of the competition.
“The most important thing for us is to get right for Ospreys,” said Cockerill. “I think Bath knew they were in a game. It was very competitive and one we could have won. We gave them too many opportunities, but we did some really good things as well.