EDINBURGH fell to a disappointing defeat in their first pre-season match last night after failing to match Newcastle’s breakdown speed and ability to finish.
Scorers: Newcastle: Tries: Tomaszczyk, Vickers; Pens: Gopperth 3; Con: Gopperth. Edinburgh: Pen: Leonard.
Of the many new signings rolled out by the Scottish team, former England hooker Andy Titterrell was the most impressive, while No 8 Stuart McInally put in a strong performance in defence and attack. There was also a worry for Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley when stand-off Harry Leonard was stretchered off early in the second half. But the head knock he took was not deemed serious.
Otherwise this was a scrappy pre-season outing, one of those necessary first matches with lots of huff and puff but precious little finesse from both sides, and an 80 minutes that will provide more lessons for Bradley’s men on what not to do than what to do for next week’s de-brief.
The close nature of these clubs was evident even before kick-off with lots of handshakes, Allister Hogg and new Tyneside signings Scott MacLeod and Rory Lawson meeting up with a number of former teammates, and the hosts’ skills coach Calum MacRae, a former Melrose and Borders player, renewing old acquaintances. Grant Shiells, a product of Kelso, was also promoted to the hosts’ starting line-up after Jon Golding withdrew with flu, and enjoyed a great tussle with fellow Borderer Geoff Cross. Edinburgh also had a late change with Ben Atiga, the All Black, suffering a leg injury – he should feature against Northampton next week – and so wing Sep Visser was introduced at outside centre. Edinburgh showed a lively intent by running ball from their own 22 from the kick-off, before clearing deep into the Newcastle half. Lock Sean Cox outjumped the home side’s international second row of MacLeod and Carlo Del Fava to steal the first lineout and Harry Leonard duly thumped Edinburgh into a 3-0 lead after just two minutes.
The Falcons, with two games already under their belt, responded with a period of pressure which began to draw the Scots into conceding penalties and it quickly turned the tables. After Jimmy Gopperth had levelled matters with a penalty, Edinburgh lost their new blindside flanker Dimitri Basilaia to the sin-bin after the Georgian failed to stay behind the back foot at rucks.
Edinburgh’s defence was splintered in the ensuing play and it was an Edinburgh product who drove the nail in, Newcastle tighthead prop Oliver Tomaszczyk, a former pupil of Merchiston Castle School, being driven over the line for the first try with 13 minutes played and Gopperth’s converting to open up a seven-point lead. Edinburgh did well to hold out in another heavy period of pressure with hooker Andy Titterrell and Stuart McInally at the forefront of the defensive effort. Building anything in the Newcastle half was another matter, however, and the visitors were pleased to see Falcons’ errors denying the hosts scores. McInally, hoping to make an early claim to the No8 jersey before the return of Netani Talei and David Denton, produced several good bursts off scrums and rucks, butthe attack lacked the necessary crispness to challenge the home defence.
The substitutions began with Rory Lawson coming on for his Newcastle debut and Edinburgh introducing WP Nel, Steven Turnbull, Richie Rees, Perry Parker and Gregor Hunter.
Leonard did not leave the field on his own steam though as he was stretchered off injured following a robust tackle defending his own 22.
The game still lacked a spark, but Edinburgh’s ball retention improved, earning them some penalties and territory.
For all that they looked sharper, with centre Tane Tu’ipulotu a constant threat, Newcastle could not apply a finish, and had to settle for two more penalties from Gopperth, the former Hurricanes fly-half, to finally move the scoreboard, pushing the hosts 16-3 ahead going into the last ten minutes.
A fine tackle by Hamish Watson, the young openside, stopped Lawson from scoring, but in the final seconds Edinburgh’s tiring defence let Rob Vickers, the home hooker, barrel over for a second try.
Newcastle: J Gopperth; L Fielden, A Crockett, T Tu’ipulotu, R Shortland; W Luveniyali, C Pilgrim; G Shiells, R Vickers, O Tomaszczyk, S MacLeod, C del Fava, T Tu’ifua, W Welch (capt), A Hogg.
Edinburgh: G Tonks; L Jones, S Visser, J Houston, M Penn; H Leonard, C Leck; A Jacobsen, A Titterrell, G Cross, G Gilchrist, S Cox, D Basilaia, R Grant, S McInally.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 20 June 2013
Temperature: 11 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 11 C to 18 C
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