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Solomons has the wisdom to build success for Edinburgh

By Michael Sadlier

With Scottish international rugby in as dire a state as the Murrayfield pitch, the regional game is actually turning out to be a somewhat refreshing diversion from all the deep introspection now being done over the dreadfully performing national squad.

Indeed, in Edinburgh's last game, which was moved to the Boroughmuir club's home ground at Meggetland in order to save the surface for the drubbing England then went and inflicted on the national side, they managed to get one over on the play-off chasing Ospreys.

Though the result actually did Ulster quite a favour, of more importance to the Scottish capital's side was the fact that it halted a three game losing run for former Ulster coach Alan Solomons (pictured) and his squad.

It certainly wasn't a bad way to end February and even though Greig Laidlaw and Geoff Cross – who is on loan to Glasgow – are leaving at season's end, Thursday's announcement that hooker Ross Ford is sticking around has all fed into the notion that things are gradually turning round for the under-achieving side.

Tonight, though, sees eighth-placed Edinburgh – who are essentially scrapping with the Dragons, Connacht and the Blues to see who finishes up in seventh – host Ulster tonight, back at Murrayfield, having now managed to win five of their last six PRO12 games at their 'home' venues.

And not only that, but further encouragement for Solomons, who is busy assembling a stronger squad and team ethic, lies in the fact that they have managed to win their last three home games against Irish opposition across both competitions while it may help that they saw off Ulster in last season's corresponding fixture before the South African took charge.

But back to that Ospreys win at Boroughmuir. It's not too often you hear an Edinburgh coach praising the atmosphere generated by their long-suffering supporters, but Solomons made a point of mentioning the 3,000 souls who turned out at the much more intimate venue having made a big difference instead of the usually limp atmosphere generated in the vastness of Murrayfield.

"Yes, the crowd definitely helped us," Solomons said regarding the character-building 31-25 win over the Ospreys.

"The players could feel it and produced an outstanding performance," he said.

"We got the result because we delivered a good performance. However, Ulster are stronger than the Ospreys and will require an even better performance," he rightly added.

Things have definitely improved since November's autumn international window when Solomons returned to Belfast with his new club. Back then they turned up at Ravenhill having won three out of seven PRO12 games, with two of those successes being hardly convincing home wins against Treviso and Zebre.

And though they had already drawn attention to themselves with October's shock Heineken Cup victory over Munster – again at Murrayfield – this seemed more a flash in the pan.

Against Ulster, though, the wheels really came off as they were flogged 41-17. But Solomons then went on to mastermind beating Connacht the following week and was able over the next five games to sprinkle in a shock European win at Gloucester away before also delivering a home victory over Perpignan and taking Leinster's scalp in the PRO12 at Murrayfield.

Indeed, only a narrow defeat to Glasgow halted what could have been four straight wins from mid-December to the same point in January.

Tonight, the coach has bolstered his pack with Willem Nel and Scotland international Alasdair Dickinson returning while Tom Brown comes back on the wing allowing Jack Cuthbert to go to full-back while triallist Carl Bezuidenhout plays at out-half.

Another result over an Irish side would really be something for the slowly improving Scots.

Belfast Telegraph

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