Richard Cockerill admits Edinburgh got what they deserved after throwing away a place in the Guinness PRO14 final. The Scots looked set to claim a place in next Saturday’s Dublin showdown with Leinster after cutting through Ulster three times.
They held a 12-point lead with 23 minutes left at an empty Murrayfield but blew a golden opportunity to finally break their 23-year quest for a major trophy.
With just seconds left and extra-time looming, prop Mike Willemse’ knock-on handed Ian Madigan a penalty, which he nailed to seal a stunning 22-19 victory to send Ulster through to their first final in seven years.
But Cockerill admits Edinburgh only have themselves to blame.
The Englishman – whose side still have a European Challenge Cup quarter-final against Bordeaux to prepare for later this month – said: “It’s disappointing when you are 19-7 ahead. We didn’t control the game.
“All credit to Ulster, it’s all of our own making, we should have made better decisions and we should have executed better. It’s not good enough from us.
“We got exactly what we deserved and they got exactly what they deserved.
“In these games it’s the little things which make the difference and some of our players clearly don’t understand what that looks like.
“We’ve got international Test players with Scotland and they should know better.
“We’ve had enough opportunities about learning and we didn’t deliver and it’s got to improve and quickly.
“We have a good group of players and we put ourselves into a good position but what they need to learn is to stay in games the whole time.
“We are going to have a good hard look at ourselves but we need to be better.”
The hosts’ defence was as solid as the rock Edinburgh Castle sits on and they took a deserved lead through skipper Stuart McInally. Darcy Graham and Chris Dean added further scores either side of a Rob Lyttle effort.
But Edinburgh collapsed under the pressure of two late line-outs as Rob Herring and John Andrew squeezed over, handing Madigan his late shot at glory.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 5, 2020
Ulster now face the daunting prospect of halting Leinster in their own backyard at the Aviva Stadium next week as they look to make it three titles in a row.
Coach Dan McFarland said: “It doesn’t matter who we are. No-one will give us a chance against Leinster but we will prepare properly, we’ll come up with a game plan we hope will work and we’ll give it a shot.
“I wouldn’t say I was confident at 12 points down, not the way we were playing up until that point.
“We had made a lot of mistakes. We hadn’t played particularly well.
“But the effort was there and we also demonstrated that with a little bit of ambition in our play we could do damage.
“That showed in the second half.”
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