EDINBURGH interim coaches Stevie Scott and Duncan Hodge enhanced their claims to take the jobs on a permanent basis with their third win in the five matches since they took charge as the Capital hosts edged Dragons 31-24 at Murrayfield.
Edinburgh Rugby 31 - 24 Dragons
Edinburgh Rugby: Tries – Tonks, Laidlaw, Talei. Cons – Laidlaw (2). Pens – Laidlaw (4)
Dragons: Tries – S Jones, Lydiate, Prydie. Cons – Prydie (3). Pen – Prydie
However, the pair had to endure a tense end to the final fixture in a dismal season as two errors allowed the Dragons to haul their way back into a match that appeared to be in the bag entering the final quarter.
“It’s certainly exciting coaching this team,” said Scott, who makes no secret of his desire to take on the role on a more permanent basis, adding: “The process is still going through, but I want to be involved.”
The match was a triumphant sign-off for departing prop Allan Jacobsen, who delivered a typically committed 80-minute effort. Edinburgh were also well served by No. 8 Netani Talei, who will joining the Dragons next season. He left on a high after contributing one of Edinburgh’s three tries.
The hosts were forced into a late reshuffle when Ross Ford sustained an injury in the warm-up. Steve Lawrie stepped in and the home side appeared to be adjusting to the personnel change when they fell behind to an opportunist score in four minutes when Toby Faletau was given the freedom to race into the home 22 and off-load to Steffan Jones, who dived over for a score which Tom Prydie converted.
Edinburgh struck back ten minutes later when Harry Leonard ignored the men on the narrow side to send a chip into the arms of Greig Tonks, who darted round behind the sticks to claim his first try in 21 league appearances, leaving Greig Laidlaw a simple conversion to restore parity.
Laidlaw then bagged try number two when he picked up a recycled ball just short of the Dragons line and dived through a pile of bodies for an unconverted score.
Edinburgh were playing with a refreshing freedom and they were rewarded for their enterprise with a third score when Talei produced a powerful run through the heart of the opposition defence for a try that would have annoyed and heartened his new bosses in equal measure.
Laidlaw again slotted the conversion, then extended the lead with a penalty for a dangerous tackle that earned Ross Wardle a yellow card. It was the third of the match, with Sean Cox and Andrew Coombs having been despatched moments earlier for their part in a punch-up.
Prydie clawed back three points with a penalty, but Laidlaw had the final word of the opening 40 minutes when he stroked over his second penalty to leave the hosts 25-10 ahead.
Although the Dragons made a lively start to the second period, they failed to boost their points tally and two further penalties by Laidlaw stretched Edinburgh’s lead to 21 points with 52 minutes on the clock.
However, just as the hosts seemed to have the match firmly under control, two lapses ensured there would be no easing off.
Some haphazard tackling allowed Dan Lydiate to race over for the second Dragons try and just as the home side was recovering from that blow against the run of play, Nick de Luca fired out a pass which was intercepted by Prydie, who raced over from more than 50 metres for a try which he also converted to cut the gap to just seven points with 15 minutes left to play.
However, the home side managed to survive a late flurry from the Welsh outfit to chalk up the win and finish the campaign third from bottom in the table.
“All the time I’ve been involved I’ve never enjoyed the last 20 minutes of a game – that includes when I was at Sale,” added Scott. “I thought it was going to happen, but it didn’t turn out to be like that.
“It’s frustrating because they are doing a lot of good stuff. It’s simple mistakes”
And of his erstwhile colleague Jacobsen, Scott stated: “I played 100 games with Chunk and he is a friend of mine. I feel honoured to be coaching that team for his last game. That meant a lot to me.”
Edinburgh Rugby: G Tonks, D Fife, N De Luca, M Scott (P Francis 23), T Visser, H Leonard (S Kennedy 64), G Laidlaw, A Jacobsen, S Lawrie, W Nel (G Cross 62), G Gilchrist, S Cox, S McInally, H Watson, N Talei
Newport Gwent Dragons: D Evans, T Prydie, R Wardle, L Robling, T Chavhanga (P Leach 49), S Jones, J Evans (W Evans 63) , A Coundley (O Evans 60), H Gustafson (S Parry 54), N Buck (T Ryan 26), A Coombs, R Sidoli (A Jones 21), D Lydiate, N Cudd, T Faletau (I Jones 60)
Referee: M Mitrea (Italy)