CRUELTY is never far away from the surface in top level sport – just ask Edinburgh. A little more than two weeks ago, they were flying high, hoping for semi-finals in the Heineken Champions Cup and the Guinness PRO14. Two defeats later and they are almost certainly out of both and struggling even to make the elimination play-off for a spot in Europe’s top tier.

They still have their fate in their own hands but to have any realistic chance of getting anything from the season, they have to win in Glasgow in a fortnight, just as they did at New Year but did not manage at all between 2005 and 2017.

“We have to win that game to give ourselves any chance of anything,” said Mark Bennett, who is slowly returning to something like peak form after back-to-back injuries. “We can beat anybody on our day, we have shown that at times during the season, but against Ulster we were not good enough. We have performed well on the big stage, we just had an off day, I’m not sure why, that is just the way it was.”

Technically, Richard Cockerill’s men have an outside chance of a play-off but it is the longest of long shots. Whatever Benetton Treviso do against Zebre, who have won only three games all season, Edinburgh would need at least one point more and to make up a 10-point deficit on score difference to overtake the Italians. If Treviso win with a bonus point, there is nothing Edinburgh can do.

To make life tougher, they could need to beat Glasgow just to stay in fourth, ahead of the Scarlets, and face the winner of the Welsh derby between the Ospreys and Cardiff Blues for the final European entry.

Either way, as Bennett accepted, a repeat of the performance they put on against Ulster in the 29-7 defeat could see their season come to a shuddering halt in a fortnight.

“We created chances, there were opportunities,” he said. “On the night we were just not good enough to take them. That was the big disappointment, we manipulated them the way we had spoken about during the week. Don’t get me wrong, they defended really well but there were opportunities we missed.”