Mike Blair pinpoints key moment as Edinburgh’s United Rugby Championship campaign gets off to a flyer

Mike Blair, the Edinburgh coach, pinpointed the sin-binning of Dragons prop Lloyd Fairbrother as a key moment as the capital side opened their BKT United Rugby Championship season with 44-6 thrashing of the Welsh team at the DAM Health Stadium.

Edinburgh's Bill Mata made his competitive comeback after a long-term knee injury.  (Photo by Simon Wootton / SNS Group)
Edinburgh's Bill Mata made his competitive comeback after a long-term knee injury. (Photo by Simon Wootton / SNS Group)

Fairbrother was yellow-carded by Italian referee Andrea Piardi for a late tackle just before half-time and Blair took the opportunity to freshen up his front row at the interval, bringing on Pierre Schoeman and WP Nel for Boan Venter and Angus Williams.

Edinburgh made the extra man count, seizing control of the game early in the second half and never letting go.

Darcy Graham’s two tries in the first ten minutes of the second period turned Edinburgh’s 15-6 half-time lead into a 27-6 advantage and there was no way back for the Dragons who had looked the more threatening side in the opening 20 minutes of the match.

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“We took a little bit of time to acclimatise to the ref, we got on the wrong side of him early on and it took us a while to adjust to him which put us on the back foot,” said Blair.

“The sin-binning of the tighthead was a big moment as it allowed us to bring WP Nel and Pierre Scheoman on while they had the yellow card.”

Edinburgh scored seven tries in total, with Ben Vellacott and Glen Young touching down in the first half, and Damien Hoyland, Blair Kinghorn and Chris Dean adding to Graham’s double after the break.

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Dragons' Lloyd Fairbrother (No. 3) is shown the yellow card by referee Andrea Piardi during the defeat by Edinburgh. (Photo by Simon Wootton / SNS Group)

“I am pleased with bits of it,” added Blair who was forced into a number of positional reshuffles as he juggled his resources, blending in a number of players who were either coming back from injury or who had returned late to pre-season following Scotland’s summer tour. At one point, scrum-half Henry Pyrgos was substituted on for No 8 Bill Mata who playing his first competitive game since last December due to a serious knee injury.

“We had Chris Dean in the back row, we had Ben Vellacott on the wing, Mark Bennett went to the wing and kicked for goal so there was a lot going on there,” said Blair.

“I was really nervous about this game because of the amount of game time that guys had had going into it. Not many had over 40 minutes from last week’s friendly with Benetton.

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“Bill Mata has played 30 minutes in the last nine months and there will not be many substitutions when he comes off and Henry Pyrgos comes on so there was a bit of confusion there!”

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