If Edinburgh Rugby were trying to lure forthcoming Heineken European Cup opponents Toulouse into a false sense of security ahead of their eagerly awaited quarter-final tie in a fortnight, they could scarcely have made a better job of it than in last night’s disjointed and ragged 29-15 defeat by an average Newport Gwent Dragons side in the RaboDirect Pro 12 League at Murrayfield.
To be fair, Edinburgh were without all but one of their players who had figured in the Six Nations Championship and Dragons were hardly bounteous contributors to the Welsh title cause.
Nevertheless, Edinburgh huffed and puffed throughout against opponents who had merely to live off their mistakes to post back-to-back away league wins for the first time in six years. Even when the visitors were shorn of Darren Waters and Phil Price on yellow cards Edinburgh struggled to make inroads and a try-count of 2-0 was ample proof of Welsh superiority.
By contrast, Edinburgh had to rely on the boot of Harry Leonard, whose five penalties were from as many attempts at goal.
A disappointed Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley knew his side had fallen well short, admitting: “We were poor and made too many handling errors which made it easy for the Dragons.
“It was a chance to address our recent form and we aren’t going to win games if we keep giving the ball away.”
Before the opening quarter had elapsed, Edinburgh were given a glimpse of the pace that has made Dragons winger Tonderai Chavhanga a rugby record breaker. The Zimbabwe-born player is said to have been clocked at 10.2 seconds for the 100 metres and, back in 2005, at East London, celebrated a debut for South Africa by scoring six tries in a 134-3 rout of Uruguay.
Against an Edinburgh side who fumbled and flailed their way through the opening half, Chavhanga struck twice.
His first try, after Leonard had opened the scoring with a penalty, owed everything to an accurate cross kick from stand off Steffan Jones, who also converted from wide out.
However, after Leonard had added another penalty, a seemingly speculative kick ahead caught Edinburgh’s defence flat-footed and in a race to the loose ball, the only winner was going to be Chavhanga.
Again Jones converted and despite three more penalties by Leonard – and the sin-binning of visiting flanker Waters – Edinburgh could not get much change out of a Welsh side who hadn’t posted back-to-back away victories since 2006,
Hampering Edinburgh in particular – a couple of long range Jones’ penalties aside – was a careless pass from Roddy Grant after Stuart McInally had intercepted and a knock on by the latter in a separate attack. Also, Matt Scott roared through but was unable to get a pass away with the defence threadbare.
Calamity followed upon mishap as a line-out throw was pirated and as half time loomed, Edinburgh had the indignity of being marched back for dissent, allowing Jones to kick his third penalty.
Edinburgh re-started by trying to get extra width on their play but after coming close to a clean line break Grant Gilchrist undid good work with a loose pass which typified the Edinburgh approach to a match where the ball was treated like a piece of radioactive material.
Momentum surrendered, Edinburgh were pushed back until Jones, for once, fired a penalty wide
Leonard slotted home his fifth penalty of the night but visiting sub Lewis Robling stretched the Dragons’ lead to 26-15 with a penalty of his own.
Soon after Robling struck again and it was becoming clear that Edinburgh would be going eight consecutive league matches without a win.