EDINBURGH finished the season with a smile on the face after a three-try performance clinched a seventh win and provided a fitting send-off for their popular prop Allan Jacobsen.
Scorers: Edinburgh: Tries: Tonks, Laidlaw, Talei; Pens: Laidlaw 4; Cons: Laidlaw 2.
Dragons: Tries: Jones, Lydiate, Prydie; Pens: Prydie; Cons: Prydie 3.
But there was some irony in Fijian No 8 Netani Talei playing a key role in putting Edinburgh into a commanding lead in the first half and duly receiving the Man of the Match award for doing so. When Talei has the bit between the teeth and performs at full tilt he is an impossible man to stop, just as Edinburgh are when on song, but his and their inconsistency this season has been the overriding reason why they finish 2012-13 in tenth position.
This was very much the sideshow to Glasgow’s play-off push in Connacht, but retiring internationalist Allan “Chunk” Jacobsen provided a focus for the Edinburgh faithful. He led the home team out and received a standing ovation from the East Stand, but his subtle wave of appreciation revealed a desire to get into the action as soon as possible.
But within four minutes the Dragons served notice that they were not here for Jacobsen’s farewell party. Stand-off Steffan Jones streaked through a sleepy home defence after Toby Faletau had broken off the next scrum of the game, and Tom Prydie converted. Edinburgh had suffered the loss of Ross Ford before kick-off, the hooker being injured in the warm-up, but Steve Lawrie once again showed his quality with a good performance in the tight and loose, and slick lineout throwing.
Despite incessant rain, Edinburgh’s ambition was clear and when Leonard sent a perfectly-judged kick over the Newport defence, Greig Tonks touched down, and Greig Laidlaw converted to level the scores after 14 minutes.
From Taleis’ initial charge, and Cox’s secondary tilt, Edinburgh built another good phased attack that ended with Laidlaw diving over for the second try after 20 minutes, and then the Fijian charged through several defenders himself to score a third after 25 minutes, converted by Laidlaw.
The match exploded when an Edinburgh forward seemed to be taken out in the air at the lineout and while play continued Sean Cox and Dragons skipper Andrew Coombs set about each other on the ground, and duly both earned yellow cards.
The fireworks seemed to spark the Welsh outfit, as they mounted an attack deep into the home 22, but Edinburgh’s defence was equal to it and they pushed further ahead when centre Ross Wardle upended Talei with a dangerous tackle, and was yellow-carded, and Laidlaw slotted his first penalty of the night to put the hosts 22-7 up.
Prydie and Laidlaw swapped penalties before the break, leaving Edinburgh 25-10 up, but the rain returned with a stronger wind for the start of the second half, and it helped to blow Prydie’s early penalty effort off course.
It eased and Laidlaw seemed to put Edinburgh out of reach at 31-10 ahead with two more long-range penalties, but then the rain returned, and the game deteriorated into a mess of scrums – that is now the collective noun isn’t it? – and punctuating substitutions.
The Dragons breathed new life into it, however, with a quick-fire double. Coombs provided a fine lead in the set-piece, when they kept ball, and new Lions flanker Dan Lydiate escaped the home defence to streak in for a try, and then Prydie intercepted a Nick de Luca pass on the Dragons ten-metre line and raced clear over 60 metres, the winger converting both to bring the deficit back to just seven points with 15 minutes remaining.
Laidlaw sent a penalty wide and the match drew to a finish with Edinburgh in command and a pleasing result for interim coaches Stevie Scott and Duncan Hodge.
Edinburgh: G Tonks; D Fife, N De Luca, M Scott, T Visser; H Leonard, G Laidlaw (capt); A Jacobsen, S Lawrie, W Nel, S Cox, G Gilchrist, S McInally, H Watson, N Talei.
Subs: P Francis for Scott 21mins, G Cross for Nel 62, S Kennedy for Leonard 66.
Newport Gwent Dragons: D Evans; T Prydie, R Wardle, L Robling, T Chavhanga; S Jones, J Evans; A Coundley, H Gustafson, N Buck, A Coombs (capt), R Sidoli, D Lydiate, N Cudd, T Faletau. Subs: A Jones for Sidoli 21mins, T Ryan for Buck 26, P Leach for Chavhanga 49, O Evans for Coundley 61, I Jones for Faletau 62, W Evans for J Evans 65.