Heineken Cup: Quelle Différence?

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Heineken Cup: Quelle Différence?
(Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

Stade Francais 31 Edinburgh 7
Glasgow 18 Biarritz 22

Ugh.  Edinburgh flatter to deceive (get hammered), and Glasgow come close, but fail to squeeze out the result they definitely deserved.  So far, so Scottish teams in the Heineken Cup.  I thought there were a few positives to be taken from the weekend's defeats, though.

Johnnie Beattie finally took it to the next level with a great performance level that, if maintained, could and should see him challenge Hoggy and Simon Taylor for the Scotland No. 8 shirt.  Won’t matter to Jonathan Davies, who can’t tell the difference.

Thom Evans is rediscovering form with every game, and was a palpable threat whenever he had the ball.  He just lacks the opportunities in the right spaces without his brother inside him, but Dave McCall is also getting up to speed with each game and building on his solid defence.  In the Glasgow backline, Colin Gregor continues to be a hive of activity, with a wee bit of flair and Rob Dewey looked a little more at home at centre than his recent home on the wing.  Still, they weren’t quite able to put it together in the midfield when needed in order to win the game.

Dan Parks is at least doing what he does very well—kicking the ball around Firhill on a bit of invisible string—but he still made two silly choices when the run, and scoring opportunity, was clearly on.  With the Glasgow backs’ handling skills and pace, such negligence borders on the criminal.

Parks can run the backline very well, but it seems his instinct is still to kick.  What price Ruaridh Jackson or even Colin Gregor marshalling the onslaught on Biarritz’s try line (that often went unrewarded)?

Glasgow’s front row is developing into a powerful scrummaging unit, and the props are both under-24, so well off propping “peak.”  Still, as with Edinburgh, the lineout was fairly abysmal and led to the slightly iffy try that in the end decided the match. With Ford and Hall both having dreadful days at the lineout, who does Robbo turn to for the Scotland No. 2 shirt?

(Although some of the “not straight” decisions were a mile straighter than the ones allowed regularly in the scrum.  However, the Feeding At The Scrum and Lineout Equality Group (aka FATSLEG) is yet to be convened and start its world-conquering grass-roots petition, so that will have to wait—watch this space!).

Glasgow are definitely gettting there, and so to Edinburgh…

Mossy looks in good form; his work on sprinting has paid off, and he seems to have developed a yard of pace to go with his eye for a wee gap—he should be back at 15 on merit.  Cairns looks good, but rarely saw the ball.  If Houston is injured, I still reckon Cairns should be playing 12 and De Luca 13.  Regardless, there was some slack midfield tackling that gave Stade an unassailable lead far too early on, and Scottish teams always struggle trying to force the game.

Umm, that’s about it for Edinburgh.  Okay, so they won the second half, 7-3, with a well-taken try, but by then Stade’s foot was so far off the gas that they resembled someone dropping a bucket of paint over a traffic jam (slowly) rather than the confident riot of colour and pace from the first half.

Roddy Grant looks fully at home in the 15s game, and is it just me, or were Edinburgh much better when Hogg was captain?  Perhaps it was just poorer opposition early on in the season.  Far too many handling errors, no lineout control, and a lack of quick ball for/from Blair basically put the dampeners on Edinburgh’s match.

At least it is a game out of the way that they would not perhaps realistically have targeted as a “Win” in their battle to escape the pool, but one wonders if it will prove a damaging blow to the confidence of a team that we felt had moved forward so much under Andy Robinson.

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