THESE teams are both struggling in the nether regions of the Pro12 and it was obvious why after this disjointed performance, with Edinburgh struggling to dominate a team without a player anywhere near Wales’ starting XV. Quite why Sky decided to televise this encounter with no more than a smattering of fans inside the Murrayfield mausoleum is anyone’s guess.
The match was overshadowed by a serious injury to Edinburgh breakaway Cornell du Preez, who was stretchered off with ankle damage around the half-hour mark and rushed straight to hospital. Edinburgh will have to do without their most successful South African signing, probably for months.
Edinburgh’s hapless season was summed up on the 20-minute mark when this match was still scoreless. Greig Tonks collected a Dragons’ kick and sparked a counter-attack from deep, linking with Tim Visser up the left flank before Sam Beard kicked ahead. Hamish Watson did well to hack the ball goalwards and Visser was first to the ball over the line, only to knock it on in the act of scoring.
He will play a long time before crucifying an easier try, but the big Dutchman scored in the second half and almost made amends towards the end of the first 40, running back another loose Dragons clearance kick before sending Watson steaming towards the line. The flanker was stopped short but his momentum took him over the line only for TMO to rule against.
In fact the TMO awarded against Edinburgh on three separate occasions when the home side thought they had scored tries. The Dragons missed a long-range penalty and the match remained completely scoreless for the first half hour; both teams apparently doing their damnedest to lose. The Dragons eventually managed.
“I think what has carried them through is their character,” said coach Alan Solomons of his side. “I think the morale in the side has carried them through. Obviously the knocks that they get from outside the group knocked their confidence.
“The morale has been great. And that is why I say, when you come into these situations, it’s a tribute to the morale of the side and a tribute to the character of the players the way they played. And to be honest we should have had three tries. Viss missed the ball and Hamish [Watson] could have scored it, that was a clear try, Hamish’s try. We created the opportunities in this game. I thought the boys did really, really well.”
Edinburgh stand-off Tom Heathcote kicked two penalties in the last ten minutes of the first 40 to break the long deadlock before adding another brace after the break and converting one of Edinburgh’s two second half tries to finish with a personal points tally of 14.
Heathcote took the ball to the line, he kicked five from six and always threatened with the ball in hand. He was a little less composed in defence, no more than a speed bump when the Dragons scored their only try. His half-back partner Sean Kennedy made a couple of telling breaks to keep the opposition defence honest and if every Edinburgh forward carried with the same conviction that Watson displayed the club would be sitting pretty.
After going six points up the confidence seeped back into the home team, who could have extended their lead almost immediately when WP Nel would have scored after good approach work by Beard and Mike Coman but for a wayward pass from Visser.
In between Heathcote’s second and third kicks the Dragons grabbed the lead briefly after scoring the first try of the match. Full-back Lee Byrne picked a superb out-to-in angle and lock Andrew Coombs was the link man, sending winger Matthew Pewtner through some half-hearted tackles to score under the posts.
That could have undermined Edinburgh’s fragile confidence but, following up a kick by Tonks, Visser charged down a clearance kick from opposite number Hallam Amos and finally scored Edinburgh’s opening try on 47 minutes. A second followed ten minutes later. After a concerted period of pressure on the Dragons’ line, Andries Strauss’ miss-pass found Dougie Fife unmarked on the right to extend the advantage to 21-7 and another penalty apiece ended the scoring.
Edinburgh got the win they so badly need but they are no one’s idea of the finished article. The lineout was patchy and the scrums were a mess. Alastair Dickinson on the loosehead looked to have the measure of his man but not always legally, according to the Irish referee who was much harder on the twin props on the opposite side of the scrum. John Andress and Boris Stankovitch received a finger-wagging from the official long before the first quarter of this match was up. He penalised them repeatedly before sending both men to the sin-bin on the half-hour mark. With two miscreants in the bin it was inevitable that the very next scrum collapsed and Edinburgh were penalised when it was reset with another attacking opportunity lost. They have papered over the cracks in the scrum rather than doing a overhaul.
Edinburgh’s final play of the game saw Coman go over the line after a clean break by Heathcote only to see that score wiped off as well, but by then the match was won.
Scorers: Edinburgh: Tries: Visser, Fife, Coman. Cons: Heathcote. Pens: Heathcote 4. Dragons: Try: Pewtner. Con: Tovey. Pen: O’Brien.
Edinburgh: Tonks, Fife, Beard, Strauss, Visser (Cuthbert 77); Heathcote, Kennedy (Hidalgo-Clyne 69); Dickinson (Dell 70), Ford, Andress, Bresler, Gilchrist, Coman (Capt), Watson, Du Preez (Leonardi 27).
Dragons: Byrne (Capt), Pewtner, Pyrdie, Smith, Amos (Brew 56); Tovey, Evans (Rees 70); Stankovich, Dee (Thomas 56), Way, Coombs, Landman, Evans, Cudd, Powell.
Referee: P Fitzgibbon.