Newport were first on the board thanks to the boot of Dorian Jones, however for the majority of this European Challenge Cup semi-final it was Edinburgh who showed the intent, turning down kicking opportunities to go for the corner. With the resulting rolling maul collapsing, Welsh Number 8 Taulupe Faletau was sent to the sin bin, allowing Sam Hidalgo-Clyne to score an easy 3 points.
Filling in at 10, Phil Burleigh was taking control of the game with some inch-perfect kicks allowing Edinburgh to win the territorial battle. After a lineout steal, flanker-turned hooker-covering flanker Stuart McInally was able to combine his new-found bulk with his back-row pace, beating the first man and getting Edinburgh into the 22. Phases were then built before McInally got back on the ball again, breaking the tackle to dive over for a superb individual forward’s try.
And the scoreboard kept ticking over. Hidalgo-Clyne made a half-break but couldn’t find the offload. A couple more phases put Edinburgh in the right direction before a skilful out-the-back pass from the scrum-half gave Tim Visser the space to get round the defence for Edinburgh’s 2nd try.
Both kickers increased the scoreboard Edinburgh getting 2 penalties to Newport’s 1, however, it was still the home side with most of the game being played in the Dragons’ half through excellent use of territory. Hidalgo-Clyne had possibly the best of these chances, finding a gap made after Roddy Grant’s little surge up-field. An attempted chip off the outside of his boot, however, failed to make more than a metre.
Half-Time: Edinburgh 21-9 Newport Gwent Dragons
Last weekend against Leinster, the Dragons were 8-22 down at one point, yet came back to win 25-22. And they started the second half in a similar fashion, using a driving maul 5 metres out to set up their first real attack of the day. Edinburgh’s defence has been weak in recent weeks around the maul area and this showed as prop Brok Harris crashed over from short range, Jones’ conversion reducing the deficit to just 5 points.
When in attack, however, Edinburgh continued to look dangerous; one maul making more than 20 metres in ground until Burleigh squirted off the edge before getting held up on the line. Even then Edinburgh profited as Jonathan Evans was awarded yellow for slowing the ball.
An early push in the scrum meant that the ball was lost and the Dragons went for the clearance. Tovey’s kick was then charged down by Ben Toolis and his dive on the ball inches away from the dead-ball line gave the 18st lock Edinburgh’s 3rd try. The conversion, as well as another penalty meant that Edinburgh now lead by 15 with 20 minutes left.
And the tries kept coming. From another scrum, Hidalgo-Clyne’s sharp vision from the base allowing him to nip through the gap before running another 30 metres to score under the posts. His conversion saw him go over 150 points since he first scored for Edinburgh in November last year. Minutes later, Roddy Grant’s rip of the ball, saw Sam Beard gallop into space from 60m out before offloading to Dougie Fife for Edinburgh’s 5th try. Edinburgh’s place in the final was all but secured now…
The final 10 minutes were a much calmer affair, the 8,231 crowd probably already planning their trip to London for the final. The Dragons, however, wanted to attack to the end and although they got within 5 metres of the try line, a knock on meant that the game, and their cup hopes were dashed. Some sympathy should be given to those 3 buses of Dragons supporters who faced a long drive back home to Newport with little to celebrate.
For Edinburgh, a chance for some real silverware beckons…
Final Score: Edinburgh 45-16 Newport Gwent Dragons
SRBlog Man of the Match: Someone said in the press box at BT Murrayfield last week that the only reason Sam Hidalgo-Clyne didn’t play against Munster was “to let someone else win man of the match.” Although Phil Burleigh was extremely impressive at fly-half, Hidalgo-Clyne once again showed Vern Cotter why he is Scotland’s in-form scrum-half right now.
A version of this article first appeared on RugbyEdinburgh