MOMENTUM is everything in sport so this victory will be an invaluable boost to the Edinburgh squad ahead of their opening league match against Munster at Murrayfield next Friday night.
And when you take into account the dishevelled shambles this team had become by the tail-end of last season, there is plenty to be encouraged about with regard to the general sense of fitness and community of purpose which was apparent last night.
However, the way in which they allowed a commanding lead to slip during a shabby final quarter provided a timely reminder that this is still very much a work in progress.
Having said that, we should take into account the fact that head coach Alan Solomons gave several youngsters a run out in this match, and worked a revolving door policy when it came to substitutions during the second half. We know that the focus of the team will not be quite as willingly tinkered with when there are league points at stake.
Tim Visser chipped in with two tries and looked dangerous. Given how little Edinburgh saw of him last year, his presence – if he stays fit – could almost be like a new signing.
The battle for the scrum-half jersey promises to be one of the most compelling sub-plots of the coming season for Edinburgh fans, with Solomons literally salivating in excitement every time he discusses the precocious potential of his three leading candidates.
Last night it was Sam Hidalgo Clyne’s turn to show what he can do from the start of the match (with Sean Kennedy taking over at the start of the second half, and Grayson Hart getting the final 20 minutes) and the 21-year-old was clearly intent on making his presence felt, as a constant threat with the ball.
He was bundled into touch just a few yards short of the line after five minutes, and then manufactured a penalty opportunity for Greig Tonks with a quick tap which tempted a lumbering Newcastle forward into a clumsy piece of obstruction. Tonks will be frustrated he pulled that shot to the left of the posts, but his all-round performance was once again assured, and the only question-mark hanging over this decision to concentrate on playing stand-off rather than full-back is: Why not earlier?
It was against the general run of play that Newcastle drew first blood, when Juan Pablo Socino dissected the posts for three points after Edinburgh had been penalised for sealing off the ball at a ruck. Edinburgh may have dominated the opening quarter of an hour, but sloppiness at key moments had prevented them from turning pressure into points.
That all changed in the 18th minute when Tonks sent a wonderfully weighted kick to the left touchline, and Visser hacked ahead once before cantering over the line and grounding the ball without an opposition jersey in sight.
Having got themselves ahead, Edinburgh briefly took their foot off the gas and paid the price when former Edinburgh and Scotland star Mike Blair burrowed over, with Socino adding the extras – but it was a temporary blip in an otherwise commanding first half for the Scots.
Tonks made amends for his earlier miss by drilling home two penalties to give his team a slender 11-10 lead at the break, and the outlook might have been even better for the home side after Hidalgo-Clyne tidied up a loose ball and launched a blistering break which created mayhem in the Newcastle ranks – but he was eventually dragged down. A blistering break by Kennedy at the start of the second half almost released Dougie Fife, but the big winger was well marshalled by his opposite number.
Edinburgh stretched their lead to eight points after 14 minutes with a try which was beautiful in its simplicity. Falcons full-back Simon Hammersley must have been pretty pleased with himself after launching a 45-yard clearance downfield, which went out of play on the half-way line, but Nick McLennan was not about to wait for the line-out.
He took a quick throw to Tonks, who had Visser coming off his shoulder. All of a sudden, the flying Dutchman found himself in acres of space, and he had more than enough gas to round Hammersley to dot down under the posts. It might have been predominantly a positive excursion for Solomons and his squad, but Edinburgh will be concerned about the supine way the pack defended a driven line-out as the game entered the final 15 minutes. Newcastle walked the ball a good 15 yards with almost indecent ease before Scott Wilson grounded the ball.
That score acted as a shot of adrenalin for Newcastle. They burst straight back up-field from the restart and Edinburgh can count themselves lucky that Alex Tuilagi fumbled the ball when he was put into space after several pulverising phases, because you didn’t fancy Dougie Fife’s chances of stopping that mighty specimen once he had worked up a head of steam.
Edinburgh were in trouble, but a long-range penalty from Heathcote checked Newcastle’s momentum, and with two other refereeing decisions their way Solomons’ team won.
Scorers: Edinburgh: Try: Visser 2; Con: Tonks; Pen: Tonks 2, Heathcote.Newcastle Falcons: Try: S Wilson; Con: Socino; Pen: Socino
Newcastle Falcons: S Hammersley; T Catterick, D Barnes, A Powell, N Cato; J Socino, M Blair; R Vickers, G McGuigan, O Tomaszczyk, C Green, D Barrow, M Wilson, W Welch, A Hogg. Subs used – J Furno, J Helleur, S Lawson, E Fry, S Wilson, P Godman, Alex Tuilagi, Andy Tuilagi..
Edinburgh: P J Cuthbert; D Fife, S Beard, A Strauss, T Visser; G Tonks, S Hidalgo-Clyne; R Sutherland, R Ford, J Andress, F McKenzie, O Atkins, J Ritchie, H Watson, T Leonardi. Subs used – A Dickinson, S Kennedy, J Dominguez, N McLennan, J Hilterbrand, S Berghan, B Toolis, G Hart, T Heathcote.