The opinion polls before the game were predicting an easy Edinburgh win, but as we know the pollsters do not always get it right – even when it comes to Scottish results.
Scorers: Dragons: Try: Gustafson; Con: Tovey; Pens: Tovey (3), Prydie. Edinburgh: Try: McInally.
Edinburgh were more Liberal Democrat than SNP in a defeat which virtually condemns them to missing out on a place in the top six of the Pro 12 and so the chances of two Scottish teams in the European Champions Cup next season hang by a thread.
Edinburgh really needed a bonus point victory to keep up the pressure on the Scarlets who are a point ahead and have an easier run-in, which the pollsters in the press room felt would give them the edge. However, they did not look like a side with a bonus point win on their minds. Maybe there was an element of complacency in the ranks of the visitors following their comfortable win over the same opponents so recently. In fact, it was not until injury time at the end of the game that they earned a kickable penalty, going for the corner for captain Stuart McInally to get the try which could not even be called a consolation.
In a season in which Edinburgh have mixed the good with the bad, this was one of their poorer performances. Nothing was coming off for them and a disappointing show in the loose cost them against a home team who were far more eager.
If Edinburgh’s motivation should have been clear, for the Dragons it was a case of gunning for good old-fashioned revenge after missing out in Murrayfield in the semi-final of the European Challenge Cup.
It was a scrappy start by both sides as the rain swept into South Wales. Edinburgh managed to get some early set-piece control but it was the breakdown where the Dragons ruled the roost thanks to their back row and centres.
They edged ahead, an early penalty coming after a period of battering away on the Edinburgh line and then a second opportunity as half-time approached. It was a harsh penalty as Jack Cuthbert jumped for a high kick, but Jason Tovey missed, so justice was done.
However, an easier opportunity soon presented itself from that period of pressure and this time the Gwent stand-off added the three points.
Another ruck penalty – Edinburgh’s way of challenging for the ball was definitely getting on the wrong side of referee Gary Conway from Ireland – and Dragons full back Tom Prydie was able to land his side’s third penalty from 45 metres.
The Dragons would have felt slightly hard done by to be only 9-0 at the break given their complete control of the loose battle.
However, they extended that comfortably enough at the start of the second period. Tovey missed a drop goal in front of the posts before a piece of skill by left wing Hallam Amos gave him space to kick into the Edinburgh 22.
Sloppy defence meant a home lineout, which proved costly as prop WP Nel was judged to have brought down the driving lineout and was sent to the sin bin.
With Edinburgh a man down the kick to the corner was predictable, as was another lineout drive and this time replacement hooker Hugh Gustafson stayed on his feet long enough to score the try.
Tovey converted and Edinburgh did not look like a side in with a chance of winning, never mind the bonus point victory they really needed to keep the pressure up on the Scarlets in the race for sixth place.
They did get that late try, but the Dragons immediately hit back with another Tovey penalty to put the icing on the cake – the result had been sealed long before then.
Few of the visitors came away with any credit. Even scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne seemed hesitant at the base of the ruck, surprising given the quality season he has had. Flanker Hamish Watson tried to spark his side, but that was never going to be enough.
Dragons: T Prydie; A Hewitt, T Morgan, J Dixon, H Amos; J Tovey, L Jones; B Stankovich, T. R Thomas (capt), B Harris, C Hill, R Landman, N Crosswell, N Cudd, T Faletau. Subs: H Gustafson for Thomas 24, P Price for Stankovich 63, L Fairbrother for Harris 73, J Thomas for Cresswell 67, O Griffiths for Cudd 80, R Rees for L Jones 67, D Jones for Tovey 80, G R Jones for Hewitt 80.
Edinburgh: J Cuthbert; D Fife, S Beard, A Strauss, T Visser; P Burleigh, S Hidalgo-Clyne; A Dickinson, R Ford, WP Nel, F McKenzie, B Toolis, S McInally (capt), H Watson, C Du Preez. Subs: N Cochrane for Ford 48, R Sutherland for Dickinson 52, J Andress for Watson 54, A Bresler for Toolis 52, O Atkins for McKenzie 52, T Heathcote for Strauss 64. Not used: N Fowles, T Brown.