Edinburgh’s somewhat comfortable cruise to all three of the prizes in the winner-take-all match against Glasgow on Saturday at Murrayfield closes the door on the domestic pro season.
The capital side, with two trophies and Heineken Cup qualification for next season secured after their 28-11 win, have a URC quarter-final with the Stormers in Cape Town.
There’s slightly more chance – but only slightly – of them progressing to the last four than Glasgow, who take on all-conquering, apparently invincible Leinster in Dublin.
Should both see their seasons end in a fortnight, then all that’s left is deciding who goes to the four-match – one non-cap game vs Chile, three tests against Argentina – summer tour in June and July.
It’s a key tour, as head coach Gregor Townsend has pointed out, in forming the group that will contest the World Cup in 2023. So what did we learn on Saturday looking forward?
The Blair Switch Project is still ‘in progress’
🏆✨ As the build up to next month's 1872 Cup 𝐅𝐢𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 continues, we look back at the stories of the season so far.
First up: Blair Kinghorn's emergence at 🔟…
— Edinburgh Rugby (@EdinburghRugby) April 28, 2022
Blair Kinghorn, lest we forget, is the man currently in possession of the Scotland No 10 shirt.
His prospects of holding on to it for South America are good. Scotland’s Lions, including Finn Russell, may be rested for the summer,
Maybe. Ali Price said he’d talked to Gregor Townsend about touring and said he would be “happy to go and help in whatever capacity”. No decision has been made yet.
Price conceded he’d “played maybe 10 or 11 games less than guys in a similar position” – meaning the exiles like Russell, Stuart Hogg, Chris Harris and Duhan van der Merwe. It seems they’ll be allowed a summer’s break.
So Kinghorn looks set for a run at 10, and how’s he shaping up? Well, since the Six Nations in Dublin there’s been a couple of strong showings (Pau in the Challenge Cup particularly) but a couple of very mixed ones (Ulster and Wasps).
Saturday definitely fell into the mixed category. He took his try superbly and it showed all those attributes. There was awareness and speed of thought to snare a loose ball and the physicality to shrug off two tackles to score.
Some poor basic execution
He also orchestrated the set moves that sprung Darcy Graham to set up the first two tries. Kinghorn’s distribution, although not yet up to Russell standards, has been the biggest advance since the switch.
It’s not all there yet. One looping miss pass trying to release Damien Hoyland had the wing having to wait an age to get the ball, standing still. A couple of cross kicks were poorly executed.
The enthusiasm – some would say haste – to convert Kinghorn means those in charge aren’t going to change tack readily. And this could still work.
Dublin was always far too early to pitch Kinghorn in. He should have seen out the season for Edinburgh, then there was a chance to fine-tune him in South America.
Next season, when he’s exposed to Heineken Cup challenges, is for a more qualified judgement.
Darcy has become a proper X-Factor
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) February 12, 2022
Scotland does alright for X Factor players these days. There are significant game-changers in Russell, Hogg and van der Merwe.
They might not do it every time – as some seem to insist they must – but often enough.
I think we can safely add Darcy Graham to that group. Certainly in Edinburgh and Scotland’s gameplan, he’s become crucial.
Graham was the method to bend Glasgow’s defence off set plays for Edinburgh’s first two tries. His ability to absorb contact and still make ground in confined spaces sucks in defenders when he comes inside.
And outside, he has blistering pace which frightens the opposition. With a decent bounce of the ball, he could have scored twice.
There are obvious physical limits to Darcy, and I’m not sure he’s figured out defending the line for the new 50:22 kick quite yet.
But they’re all well outweighed by what he brings in attack. Mark Bennett’s renaissance this season has bought him a bit more space, and he’s made the most of it.
Bradbury’s departure is maybe good for all
Magnus Bradbury with a MASSIVE try for @EdinburghRugby! 😱
They're in control of this high stakes derby now 🏰 pic.twitter.com/jo0MynpsCK
— Premier Sports (@PremierSportsTV) May 21, 2022
Magnus Bradbury took the man of the match award in his final home game. He’s had a strong season, and won his Scotland place back, briefly.
But I don’t think Edinburgh are overly concerned by his departure for Bristol Bears. They have Hamish Watson and Luke Crosbie on long deals, while Jamie Ritchie and Bill Mata will be back next year.
Bradbury’s exit also frees up playing time for Ben Muncaster and Connor Boyle, coming up fast on the rise.
Bradbury hasn’t ever quite fulfilled the potential we thought he had. He should have been the physical No 8 Scotland has needed so badly since Josh Strauss departed.
One a few occasions – Twickenham 2019 – he was. But he’s also been underwhelming in many other games, even this year when he came back into the Scotland team.
A move away from the comfort zone of Edinburgh should be good for Bradbury – and possibly even for Scotland in the future.
Let the Lions have the summer off
Price insists he doesn’t feel tired, but I see no benefit in taking him, Zander Fagerson or Hamish Watson to South America either. A summer off to completely recharge makes perfect sense.
Of the eight Lions, only Rory Sutherland, coming back from injury, should tour. Hopefully Gregor Townsend will have him, Jamie Ritchie (potentially the captain?) and Cameron Redpath available.
There are plenty of interesting combinations available with the big names rested. You’d definitely like to see more of Rory Darge, Rufus McLean, Jamie Dobie, Ollie Smith and others, and this summer is the ideal chance.