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Others must share blame for rapid fall in team's fortunes

As Scottish professional rugby enjoyed its best weekend for a decade, it was horribly ironic that the glaring exception was Edinburgh's latest dismal failure.

Michael Bradley will leave at the end of the season.
Michael Bradley will leave at the end of the season.

This time last year, after all, with an RBS 6 Nations whitewash well under way and Glasgow's RaboDirect PRO12 play-off bid yet to generate full momentum, only the capital club's Heineken Cup exploits were offering any sort of hope.

Saturday's 30-3 defeat at Munster in the PRO12 was Edinburgh's eighth in succession in all competitions, however, and their season has yielded just four wins in 20 matches despite the substantial extra money invested in Scotland's professional teams.

As a result, it was announced yesterday that the services of their head coach, Michael Bradley, will not be retained beyond the end of the season. His defence coach, Billy McGinty, resigned with immediate effect.

That the coup de grace came in Cork, Michael Bradley's home city, and must only have added to the pain and embarrassment for a man who deserves to be remembered with some fondness in these parts for offering the Scottish game that fleeting taste of what it means to be involved in Europe's big knockout games.

Bringing to Murrayfield the first quarter-final to be staged on Scottish soil and taking a team from this country into the Heineken Cup semi-finals for the first time, were considerable achievements.

Cruel though it may be to say so, that McGinty precedes him out of the door is probably apt. Edinburgh's defence was the worst in the PRO12 last season. They conceded 37 more points than Aironi who were subsequently disbanded. Only newly- formed Zebre have conceded more this time.

Arguably the key moment in their Heineken Cup run was their home win over Racing Metro. The recovery from a 25-point deficit to win 48-47 was extraordinary, but hardly a cause for personal satisfaction on behalf of the defence coach.

However, while Bradley and McGinty pay the price for the club's failure to live up to the expectations raised last season, a third member of their coaching team appears to have survived unscathed. The forwards coach, Neil Back, the three-time British & Irish Lion and England World Cup winner, has had a surprisingly low profile since his arrival in the Scottish capital last summer.

There had been murmurings for some time about the performance of Tom Smith, his fellow Lion, in the post, so it was not a complete shock that a change was made.

However, several others were also added to the backroom team this term. They included yet another Lion in Andy Titterell as well the Wales international prop John Yapp and the Georgian international flanker Dimitri Basilaia to name but three.

For all there is only limited truth in the old adage that forwards decide which teams win rugby matches and backs by how many, those drilled by this particular Back have done nothing like as good a job as Edinburgh's pack did at least at times last season.

It is probably right, then, that Bradley, as the man in charge, has to go, with things having gone from bad to worse. It also seems typical of him that he has pledged to do what he can to turn things around before leaving. "It's been an honour to be Edinburgh Rugby head coach and I'd like to thank my fellow coaches, management team, players, staff, fans and sponsors for their support these past two years," Bradley said.

"Building a strong club with a clear identity, which has shared ownership from the players, management, fans, sponsors and the community at large is the key driver of all successful teams and, for me, it is critical that this work continues and enables both the club and the team to reach their full potential. The undoubted highlight of my two years was the joy on the faces of all connected with Edinburgh Rugby when the final whistle went when we overcame Toulouse in last year's Heineken Cup quarter-final.

"I am very disappointed by the run of results this season and will put everything into the remainder of the season to help the club build for a brighter future."

As he contemplates the difference a year has made, Bradley is entitled to wonder about the support he has received from many others in his organisation . . . and not just Billy McGinty.

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