Edinburgh rue missed opportunities in Dragons defeat

Edinburgh are left with only the Italians below them in the Guinness Pro12 table after slipping to this defeat as a result of not capitalising on chances on a cold Newport afternoon yesterday.

Chris Dean, right, scores for Edinburgh despite Nick Crosswells attentions. Picture: Simon Latham/Andrew Orchard
Chris Dean, right, scores for Edinburgh despite Nick Crosswells attentions. Picture: Simon Latham/Andrew Orchard

The Dragons leapfrogged them with the victory, one that was in the balance until the end, but the final act turned out to be the Dragons denying the visitors a losing bonus point rather than a dramatic snatching of victory.

Edinburgh did some good work, lock Ben Toolis always willing to do the hard work in the forwards and full-back Blair Kinghorn the cutting edge behind, but got bit carried away with some of the space they were creating and started to look wide without tying in defenders.

With the individual moments of the game going against them, such as a tight television match official decision for the Angus O’Brien try for the Dragons, they were the wrong side of the scoreboard as well.

Former Connacht scrum-half Frank Murphy was making a much-trumpeted league debut with the whistle, but Edinburgh coach Duncan Hodge is perhaps not the biggest fan of fast-tracking former players after this game. He did not admit that publicly, but he was frustrated by the players not making the most of opportunities.

“They put a lot of pressure on us in the breakdown area and, in the 15 minutes before half-time, we tried to go wide too early and got ahead of ourselves,” he admitted.

“We lost our way a bit in that period and they scored a couple of freak tries that stunted us. There was some good stuff in the second half, but some poor decisions.

“That result is a setback for us. That is a game we were planning to win. The most frustrating thing is that the signs were definitely there, but inconsistency means we cannot string it together for 80 minutes.

“They were physical and won the collisions and that gave them momentum.”

What made the result particularly frustrating was that this was not a badly weakened Edinburgh despite Scotland calls, with just the front row and openside flanker position being hit, and a few of their squad players starting on the bench.

So, with continuity not affected, they were able to play their offloading game under Hodge to good early effect.

One of the many early attacks with good phase play brought a try for No 8 Nasi Manu, who was among a queue of players waiting for the ball on the right after left wing Mike Allen had made ground up the left. Stand-off Jason Tovey converted back at his old stamping ground.

However, that strung the Dragons into a reaction, a penalty for stand-off Angus O’Brien was followed by a try for full-back Carl Meyer, taking advantage of weak tackling in midfield.

And the Dragons were soon back on the attack with loosehead prop Sam Hobbs barging over from short range.

Edinburgh did get their hands on the ball to create a flowing move finished off by centre Chris Dean, but when O’Brien and centre Sam Beard combined nicely running from halfway a kick through from the latter allowed the former to score and convert to give his side a healthy 24-12 lead.

Edinburgh battled to reduce the arrears before the break, but the passing was too loose and failed to find targets too often as the half fizzled out without any further scores. The second half saw the usual flurry of substitutes – and maybe Edinburgh were particularly keen to use the bench early because a few of their Scotland squad players started there – and the subsequent loss of cohesion.

Kinghorn was the player to break the pattern with a charge out of defence that put Edinburgh back on to the attack on the Dragons line, replacement No 8 Viliame Mata finishing off by barging over the line. Duncan Weir converted to pull his side back to within a score.

Kinghorn again provided the threat but he could not get the ball to supporting centre Dean with the line a few yards away. That was to be their last chance as the Dragons finished the stronger, adding another O’Brien penalty to deny Edinburgh a losing bonus point.