EDINBURGH’s season ended on a modest high note at the weekend as they fought back to draw with Scarlets, but their campaign as a whole has been characterised by underperformance and inconsistency. 

Like Glasgow, they were hard hit by the absence of their internationals for a long stretch in the autumn as well as in spring. Unlike Glasgow, they never really recovered from those spells to put together a run of games that gave hope for the future.

They finished fifth out of seven in PRO14 Conference B, thus failing to qualify for the Champions Cup, and ended up ninth out of 12 in the Rainbow Cup. After three seasons of undeniable progress under Richard Cockerill, this year has seen the team regress. There have been signs of the old stagnation and lack of direction that were once so typical of the side, giving the impression that this is a squad badly in need of an overhaul.


A couple of isolated performances served as welcome reminders that Edinburgh at their best can still take on the battling underdogs mentality that has served them so well under Cockerill. The 16-15 win at Sale in the Champions Cup was a good example of that, as it had been earmarked as a must-win game following the opening-round defeat by La Rochelle. 

But the prime illustration of Edinburgh at their best this season has to be the 15-14 PRO14 win over Connacht. Victories in Galway are rarely easy to come by, and this one was only achieved at the death, when Nathan Chamberlain touched down then added the conversion. 


The 56-3 defeat by Racing 92 in the Champions Cup last 16 in April was a sobering reminder of the gulf that separates Cockerill’s side from the best teams on the continent. 

The coach made an adventurous selection by playing Blair Kinghorn at stand-off instead of Jaco van der Walt, reasoning that confrontation, not containment, was the best way of taking on the Parisians. But once Racing got into their stride, there was simply no stopping them. “They were too good for us and we got what we deserved,” he accepted.


The season as a whole, quite simply. Unlike at the Warriors, where Leone Nakarawa was conspicuous by his lack of a decent contribution, none of Edinburgh’s key players stood out because of a loss of form or application. Indeed, some of those players were restricted to just a handful of appearances because of Test duties.


At 23, Jamie Hodgson has emerged as a combative and highly reliable lock forward. A former Scotland Under-20 cap, he could make his full debut for the national side this summer. Similarly, back-three player Jack Blain now 21, is poised to make that step up, having impressed whether at full-back or on the wing. And although 24-year-old Luke Crosbie arguably broke through a couple of seasons ago, there is little doubt that the absence of some of the team’s senior back-row forwards has allowed him to emerge as a pivotal member of the squad - and as another who is in the running to make his Scotland debut next month against either Romania or Georgia.


Stand-off Nathan Chamberlain enjoyed a couple of promising outings, while Boan Venter has proved to be solid back-up for Pierre Schoeman at loosehead and should grow in importance once his fellow-South-African qualifies for Scotland this summer. 

But the key piece of business as far as next season is concerned has to be the signing of Ben Vellacott. Edinburgh need an injection of dynamism and drive, and the Wasps scrum-half could be just the man to provide it.


Any team that can turn out a pack including Schoeman, Stuart McInally, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Watson, among others, still has a lot going for it. And when Edinburgh are at full strength next season, we can expect the forwards to return to their old dominant ways.

Behind the scrum, however, there are question marks everywhere. The loss of Duhan van der Merwe to Worcester has deprived Cockerill of his biggest attacking weapon, the coach has yet to find a winning blend in midfield, and there are questions about the roles of Van der Walt and Kinghorn.  


At the end of such a stop-start campaign, it is impossible to say that one player stood above all of his team-mates. Some who made an impact back in the autumn were subsequently injured or faded away, while the best one-off performances were arguably from forwards such as Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Watson who were unavailable much of the time.

But in a season that was as much a test of mental strength as it was of physical fortitude, performances over the last few games are probably the best indication of who has grown in stature. And in that regard, Mesu Kunavula has to be right up there. The Fijian flanker was only a bit player in his first season in the capital, but his irrepressible attitude has become invaluable this year.