Edinburgh marked their first match at the renovated Myreside by securing a home quarter-final in the European Challenge Cup last night in front of 5,235 spectators, close to the ground’s 5,500 capacity.
They are now two matches away from the final of the competition, which takes place at BT Murrayfield in May, after topping Pool 5 with a resounding seven-try 49-3 victory over Romanian minnows Timisoara Saracens.
Duncan Hodge’s men had the bonus point they needed to be sure of topping the group in the bag by half-time after running in four tries through Neil Cochrane, Cornell du Preez, Blair Kinghorn and Mike Allen.
Further scores in the second half from Cochrane again, Jason Tovey and Damien Hoyland, ten points from the boot of stand-off Duncan Weir, plus a couple of conversions from his replacement Tovey, marked a satisfactory start to the new Myreside era. Five further home games will be held at the Watsonians ground in the initial trial period – the next one being the hosting of Munster on the eve of the Scotland-Ireland Six Nations opener at the start of next month.
Edinburgh will now wait for the completion of the rest of the weekend’s Challenge Cup fixtures to find out who their opponents will be in the last eight, with that match to be played back at BT Murrayfield to accommodate as big a crowd as possible.
Hodge felt his side could have been more clinical and made more of their obvious superiority but was ultimately satisfied with the evening’s work. “We played reasonably well in the first half but there were too many errors in attack, giving the ball away too cheaply and that was the frustrating thing,” said the acting head coach.
“The set-piece was pretty good, lineout was good, defence was fairly solid but second half we just got a bit disjointed. But look, bonus-point win and we are top of the group.”
Hodge said the players had enjoyed the first taste of what is hoped will become their new home.
“I’ve just spoken to some of the players and they thought it was excellent,” he said.
“Even in the warm-up they could feel the crowd on top of them. They were really positive about it and I thought it was great.”
Captain for the night Cochrane, who was making his 50th appearance, led Edinburgh out into their new adventure to a vocal reception from a healthy crowd, who also seemed to enjoy the Myreside experience.
The change in mood from the cavernous BT Murrayfield was immediate but the Romanians, who Hodge had warned were an abrasive and physical unit, were keen to show they weren’t going to be patsies and matched their hosts for the first 12 minutes, winning a scrum penalty and frustrating Edinburgh’s attempts to build some early fluency.
The breakthrough finally came though after a driving maul from a penalty and lineout and it was Cochrane who marked a special personal evening for himself by providing the finishing touch, Weir converting.
Timisoara continued to provide stiffy resistance but at the start of the second quarter Edinburgh were halfway to the four tries they needed as Magnus Bradbury made an explosive burst then showed quick hands to release wing Tom Brown who had a simple draw and give to put Du Preez in for the second try, Weir again doing the necessary with the boot to make it 14-0.
On the day that Edinburgh tighthead WP Nel was ruled out of the Six Nations with a neck injury, there was a further prop blow when loosehead Allan Dell, who was named in Vern Cotter’s 37-man squad last week, went off for an assessment and failed to reappear. “I think he’s just taken a bit of a bang,” said Hodge, who wasn’t immediately sure if the prop had failed a Head Injury Assessment or not.
Just when it looked like the Romanian visitors were going to continue to make nuisances of themselves a loose pass was snaffled by full-back Kinghorn, who arrowed in under the posts for a simple interception score.
The fourth try was secured before the interval as some slick hands and a clever kick through by Chris Dean was touched down by his centre partner Allen, Weir again converting to make it 28-0.
Hodge was able to empty the bench in the second half as the procession continued, the Romanians at least getting off the mark with an early penalty, but it was one-way traffic for the rest of the game.
With the victory secured the Edinburgh fans drifted out of the stadium relishing the prospect of that quarter-final at BT Murrayfield.