Hats off to Darcy Graham as Edinburgh head to South Africa with heads held high

Mike Blair and his Edinburgh players will head to South Africa this morning buoyed by an opening day victory over Dragons, the highlight of which was a virtuoso try from Darcy Graham.

Darcy Graham scored two second half tries to pull Edinburgh clear of Dragons at the DAM Health Stadium. (Photo by Simon Wootton / SNS Group)
Darcy Graham scored two second half tries to pull Edinburgh clear of Dragons at the DAM Health Stadium. (Photo by Simon Wootton / SNS Group)

Blair knows that far tougher tests lie in wait in Pretoria and Cape Town over the next fortnight and is relishing the opportunity to pit his wits against the Bulls and Stormers, the two teams who contested the inaugural URC final in June.

The capital side put in two good performances against them last year, beating the Bulls and drawing with Stormers, but both those matches were at the DAM Health Stadium and it will be an altogether more demanding proposition in South Africa.

“I think it’s going to be a huge challenge,” said the Edinburgh coach. “Against the Bulls, we are playing at 2pm, it’s going to be about 26 or 27 degrees, at altitude. It’s brilliant - what a great place to go, and then we go into the Stormers game.

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“That game has been switched to the Cape Town Stadium [from Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch]. I’m really enthused, excited and looking forward to this game, and I’m not always like that! I’m delighted we’ve got the Dragons game done and can head to South Africa with some smiles on our faces. But we’re aware that it’s going to take a hell of an effort to get something out of these games.”

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Edinburgh had to shake off some early rust against Dragons before taking control of the match, eventually scoring seven tries in the 44-6 win. Dragons led 6-0 until the 27th minute but tries from Ben Vellacott and Glen Young and a yellow card for visiting prop Lloyd Fairbrother swung the match decisively in Edinburgh’s favour.

Graham’s two tries in the opening ten minutes of the second half put the home side so far ahead that their Welsh opponents were scrambling to stay in touch. They left big gaps which Edinburgh were able to exploit, particularly when the outstanding Blair Kinghorn came on for the final half hour.

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Darcy Graham get a hug from Edinburgh's new co-captain, Jamie Ritchie. (Photo by Simon Wootton / SNS Group)

The stand-off scored one try and created two more, for Damien Hoyland and Chris Dean, as Edinburgh cut loose. But it was Graham’s second score in the 49th minute that was the pick of the bunch. Picking the ball up in open play just outside the Dragons 22, the little winger bobbed and weaved his way through the heavy traffic before diving over.

It was Graham’s first outing since Scotland’s summer tour of Argentina and Blair was delighted with his impact.

“A bit of broken field running, disconnected defensive line and that’s when Darcy is at his best,” said the coach. “I don’t know what he sees, how he does it, but he finds a little bit of space, and because he’s small he gets in between defenders as well. Considering that’s his first minutes back, he was excellent.”

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The Hawick man was sporting protective headgear but there was no disguising his trademark footwork as he led Dragons a merry dance, prompting a blast of the Can Can over the PA, his try-scoring signature tune.

Commenting on the headgear, Graham said he was tempted to stick with it. “It’s new. It’s gone well on the night, so I think I’ll keep it.”

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