As his questioner misspoke by asking him for an update on the condition of Magnus Bradbury rather than Blair Kinghorn – who had picked up a nasty looking injury – Richard Cockerill could not resist having a bit of fun at his player’s expense.
“Maggie’s not been out to George Street yet, so by tomorrow morning he’ll be injured,” joked Edinburgh’s coach, referencing the moment at the beginning of this season when his attempt to bring about a change of culture within the organisation underwent its first real test.
Bradbury was the up-and-comer who had done enough in Cockerill’s early days in charge to be appointed club captain, only to lose it within another few weeks as a result of a late-night episode in the centre of the capital which resulted in him suffering a head injury.
It was an incident that might have destroyed their relationship, but for all that it allowed Cockerill to drive home some messages about what was expected of his players, the flanker was given a second chance.
Pay back for that was delivered on Saturday, then, as Edinburgh sought to get their season back on the rails following two damaging defeats that saw them exit the European Challenge Cup, then suffer a Pro14 defeat to Ulster that seriously threatened their chances of reaching the end-of-season play-offs.
With a reaction required no-one did more to set the tone than Bradbury who had already imposed himself in carrying the ball powerfully and battering opponents back in the tackle, when he set up the third of their tries by stealing possession as he dominated another collision, then got himself in the right place to score the fourth which secured an important bonus point.
Whether or not he completely appreciated Cockerill’s joke, the man-of-the-match has clearly reacted in exactly the right way to the more serious message delivered at the time.
“Obviously with the incident Cockers said it was down to me how I react to it. He made it clear I just focused on rugby when I was back with the club and I think I have done that,” he said.
“It has made me even more hungry to get back in the starting team and put my performance out on the pitch.”
Edinburgh were to double that try count before the end – Duhan van der Merwe adding two more to his tally, Kinghorn, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Luke Crosbie, Mark Bennett and Nathan Fowles all getting on the scoresheet as they took full advantage of the reigning champion Scarlets’ entirely understandable decision to prioritise next weekend’s European Champions Cup semi-final against Leinster, by sending a second XV to Murrayfield.
It was a win that means that even if closest Conference B rivals Ulster secure maximum points from both their remaining matches, against the top two in Conference A – Glasgow Warriors on Saturday and Munster the following week – a single bonus point when Edinburgh play host to their Scottish rivals on the last weekend of the league season will be sufficient to secure that place in the play-offs and a first involvement in the re-branded Champions Cup next season. Bradbury and his colleagues are very much back on course.
“It is going well,” he said.
“We are in a position we haven’t been in ever with the club. It is his (Cockerill’s) framework but it is down to our hard work and the other coaches as well. What goes on off the field with all the hard work translates into results this season.”
“You saw a reaction from the boys today. You saw how Delly (Alan Dell) played coming back. He had a great couple of shots, great couple of carries as well. There is competition in every position. If you don’t come up to scratch or play well they will get dropped to the bench or out of the squad completely. It is down to them to improve for the week after and get back into the team.”
Asked what has been different, Bradbury said Cockerill has kept things simple in demanding hard work, but carries the authority of someone who has been there and done it as player and coach.
“He has the experience doesn’t he?” Bradbury observed.
“He brings that to the team. He puts it down to us. He says: ’I have given you the framework. You what you do as you are the players.’ It is down to us.
“He wants me to work hard and do what I do. As a pack and a team I think we are much fitter than we were last year. Everybody is in great nick. It is near the end of the season and we only have a couple of injuries, yet this time last season the injury list was upward of ten. Our resilience is good as well.”
On which note, Cockerill was optimistic when suggesting that the aforementioned knee injury suffered by Kinghorn may not be as bad as it initially seemed. The in-form full-back could, then, still be fit for at least some of their remaining matches as they set their sights on finishing their regular season games with a victory that would earn them the 1872 Challenge Cup, both teams having won one of their previous derbies, a prospect they are clearly relishing.
“Cockers is saying we can still be overtaken by Ulster but this victory will have helped us. It would be good to beat the Weegies, but we will go out there all guns blazing,” said Bradbury.
Source : HeraldScotland