Edinburgh winger Damien Hoyland expressed his delight after making his club début in Friday night’s 24-16 win over Guinness Pro12 leaders Ospreys at Myreside.
The 21-year-old, fresh from the HSBC Sevens World Series in Wellington – where he finished top try scorer – was a late call-up to the squad and only arrived back in the capital on Wednesday, two days before he was due to play.
“I have been really eager to get a game here so it’s just great. I was more than happy to be flying back. It took 41 hours but I’m feeling okay,” Hoyland said post-match.
“It’s not as cold as I thought it would be either!”
That’s because Hoyland was supposed to have been in Las Vegas this weekend with the Scotland 7s squad. But while disappointed not to continue his blistering form in sevens, the winger was satisfied to finally get his first game with the club.
“I need to push as hard as I can in training and try and get a couple more chances to play. I felt quite comfortable out there but I want to be able to push and do well at this level.”
The reason that Hoyland felt so comfortable in his inaugural match he says, is due in part to the high quality of the sevens circuit, something he feels has helped develop his game inexorably.
“Sevens is a really good level so I didn’t feel like I was out of place coming back into it,” Hoyland said.
“The step up from club level to professional is quite big so it’s great having another professional outfit to be able to go out and play with. You’re playing with some of the best players in the world. Everyone is fast and strong”, continued Hoyland.
“And we are playing in front of really big crowds, so that has prepared me massively.”
Such is the standard of the Sevens World Series and modesty of the winger, Hoyland was naturally critical of certain aspects of his first appearance.
“To get the win is fantastic. Personally I don’t think I was demanding the ball often enough in the first half but I got into it a bit more in the second.”
“As a winger, you want nothing more than to get your hands on the ball, it’s maybe something I need to work on.”
More involvement in the second half gave Hoyland opportunities to use his attacking flair, particularly when Edinburgh succeeded in getting on the front foot, but Hoyland’s eagerness got the better of him as he was sin-binned for a tackle deemed dangerous by referee Gary Conway.
“It always feels normal on the pitch but it’ll be interesting to see it again,” said Hoyland.
“I was worrying a bit because it’s never easy to defend with 14 men. They did amazingly and didn’t lose any points at all.”
Indeed, it was this period of the match where Edinburgh really had to work hard. And as well as not conceding any points, the home side even went on to score their third try through man of the match scrum-half Grayson Hart, to secure victory.
Coach Alan Solomons afterwards praised the character of his side, who had never previously all played together before.
“I thought it was a really good performance, if one takes into account that this team has not played together before,” Solomons said.
“We’ve had a three-week break and – although they had some players missing too – we were up against a side that have been playing together for the past three to four weeks”.
Solomons was equally as impressed with the performance of Hoyland, especially after his tumultuous journey back to make the game.
“I think Damien has done brilliantly in the sevens and it was great to get an opportunity to see him play tonight.
“He only arrived back from New Zealand on Wednesday. He had an horrific flight to get here. He had a bit of a knock on the knee and had one captain’s run before the game so I’m really chuffed for him.
“My vision is to build a club through young Scottish qualified and indigenous players and to see another boy like Damien come in made me really chuffed.”
For Hoyland, the sky is the limit and the winger aims to use the Six Nations period as an ideal opportunity to cement his place in the Edinburgh squad, starting with next weekend’s clash with Ulster at BT Murrayfield.
“Running out at BT Murrayfield [for the first time] would be amazing. It should be easier on my calves too, on a harder surface than Myreside! But it would be an amazing opportunity if I got the chance.”
Edinburgh turn their efforts towards another crucial match next Friday night, facing second placed Ulster at BT Murrayfield. And Alan Solomons men will be looking to maintain a immensely impressive home record this season, having only lost once since the defeat to Connacht in September.
Image: John Preece