Newcastle 8 - 21 Edinburgh: Second half dominance earns Edinburgh victory

Edinburgh took a commanding lead of Pool 5 in the Heineken Champions Cup with this hard-earned away win on a freezing afternoon in Newcastle.

Blair Kinghorn is tackled by Newcastle Falcons' Johnny Williams. Picture: PA
Blair Kinghorn is tackled by Newcastle Falcons' Johnny Williams. Picture: PA

As with the home game nine days previous, Richard Cockerill’s side had to come from behind at half-time but did so with aplomb as they once again shut out the Falcons in the second half, gradually took control and struck with tries from centre James Johnstone and wing Duhan van der Merwe to complete the home and away double over the English Premiership outfit.

The Scots were the superior team for the majority of the contest but a lack of accuracy at times prevented them from wrapping things up more comfortably as the game continued to be an attritional arm wrestle right up to the closing ten minutes.

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The opening exchanges were fairly even, Scotland centre Chris Harris showing the Edinburgh midfield of Johnstone and Chris Dean a clean pair of heels at one point but the visitors were dominating possession without carving out any real attacking danger,

Falcons full-back Simon Hammersley sparked another home attack which fizzled out as Edinburgh seemed to be keeping a grip on proceedings.

The stalemate was broken in the 19th minute when a speculative high ball by Jaco van der Walt was claimed and Newcastle scrum-half Sonatane Takulua hared up the left flank before exploiting the gaps in the Edinburgh defence to feed wing Sinoti Sinoti for the opening score.

Toby Flood missed the conversion but four minutes later Van der Walt was bang on target with a penalty from 35 metres out to cut the deficit,

Flood stretched the lead out to 8-3 with a straightforward penalty in the 28th minute but that was pegged back by Van der Walt five minutes later as Edinburgh began to exert some forward dominance. They finished the half on the defensive but were able to comfortably contain some pretty unthreatening Newcastle forays to leave the game finely poised at the break.

Cockerill got the dynamic start to the second half he no doubt demanded during the interval as powerful wing Van der Merwe made his first major impact on the game as he chased his own kick and bundled Hammersley into touch to set up the attacking platform.

Henry Pyrgos pinged a tantalising chip which bounced under the home crossbar and Johnstone was there to gather and ground.

Van der Walt added the extras and Edinburgh were in front for the first time and Pyrgos put another delightful kick in behind to force an attacking lineout in the right corner. It looked like the visitors had their hosts on the rack and were set to take a decisive lead but a lack of patience saw the ball spun wide prematurely and fumbled wide out to squander a perfect opportunity to screw the nut.

Edinburgh were by far the better team by this stage and, but for some costly naivety, would have been more to the good on the scoreboard. They did tick it another three points on to it in the 61st minute when Van der Walt knocked over another penalty to take them beyond a converted score at 16-8 up.

It was the 69th minute before Newcastle managed to get inside the visiting 22. The Edinburgh defence was stretched but held firm as the Falcons settled for a penalty and went for the corner.

Entering the final ten minutes you felt this was the critical moment of the match and, after losing the lineout, the Scots were able to clear their lines and earn a bit of respite.

Even more was forthcoming when the Falcons transgressed at the ruck just as they were looking to to force their way back into Edinburgh 22. The lineout at halfway allowed Pyrgos to launch another up and under which forced a knock on. There was no need for the scrum, though, as Edinburgh pounced on the advantage and swept the ball left for Van der Merwe to surge in for the clinching score to the delight of the travelling support.

Van der Walt couldn’t make the tough conversion from out wide and, with a try bonus looking beyond reach, the bigger priority now was to close things out and ensure Newcastle took nothing from the encounter.

Sinoti got a sniff in the last couple of minutes but was stopped ten metres out by Johnstone. There was lengthy TMO examination of full-back Blair Kinghorn’s high follow up challenge before French referee Alexandre Ruiz ruled that there was no intent from the 21-year-old.

Falcons pressed from a lineout as the clock went red but Edinburgh forced the turnover and booted out to complete a professional job well done.