Regardless of your thoughts on Ross Ford as a player, or even WP Nel as a project player, the settled trio of Dickinson, Ford and Nel are building something special in an era when you don’t think of front rows as a single entity (Pontypool front row anyone?). All three are out of contract at the end of the season, which may be worrying for Edinburgh’s accountant.
The Viet-Murrayfield had a huge impact on this game at Murrayfield against a young Dragons side who had little answer to Edinburgh’s forward power. They eked out a first penalty from referee Marius Mitrea which Sam Hidalgo-Clyne stroked over for the game’s opening points. Then they then gave away 3 to Newport.
Scrums: influential on the outcome, certainly.
But for a guddle on the deck, Tom Brown could have had the opening try after Phil Burleigh’s well placed chip kick. Burleigh was at the heart of Edinburgh’s best attacking play, keeping the Dragon’s rush defence honest and the first half saw a refreshing lack of aerial ping pong as he and Matt Scott probed the line.
Burleigh broke down the right wing then swung a lovely pass behind his defender, and followed up to take the offload from the highly physical Cornell du Preez. From the pressure that followed Edinburgh took a penalty and a lineout even closer to Newport’s line; that man WP picked and burrowed over for a try: unstoppable.
The Dragons were game to play some rugby on a dry but cold night in Edinburgh, but the home side were a different class for the first half even in the backs where they can be at times less than inspirational.
The half finished with Nel again scoring a try, although the TMO adjudged it a double movement as he reached out to place the ball over the line, sending him in at the break one imagines a very grumpy tighthead.
Half-time: Edinburgh 13-6 Newport Gwent Dragons
The first ten of the second half were far less impressive, with Edinburgh looking a little complacent. It did however see off the first Newport loosehead in the shape of Boris Stankovich who was sent to the bin for repeated scrum infringements, a warning carried over from the first half.
Blair Kinghorn was on for Greig Tonks after only half an hour and he offered a lively, gangly presence at full back, combining nicely with Scott and Burleigh on a number of breaks.
It only took 6 minutes for Nel to see off replacement loosehead Phil Price. With the scrums uncontested for a few minutes, Edinburgh opted to test the driving lineout but Newport defended it manfully – and possibly illegally. That particular set piece still didn’t fire very well but Kinghorn was still making good breaks and Edinburgh were looking for points.
Newport were hard done by as they thought Alasdair Dickinson’s try was being analysed for a forward pass by Hardie and then Mitrea dealt them a double blow by binning fly-half Dorian Jones for a dangerous tackle (after the pass was away) in the process.
At 20-6 up Edinburgh and still at least a man up, Edinburgh capitalised on their dominance in most areas by doing very little. As the benches emptied and the various binned players were restored, the game became a little stilted but the scrum was still there as a constant source of possession and territory.
Edinburgh worked another try well through Tom Brown with a pinpoint pass from Hidalgo-Clyne and Will Helu could have had another but the touchline caught him. Matt Scott made good on the pressure moments later after Sean Kennedy made an arcing run and Scott battered off his defender to sprint over for the bonus point.
The game ended on a sour note for Edinburgh’s defence as the Dragons claimed a consolation try against the general run of things, but Alan Solomons’ men can be satisfied with a job pretty well done.
SRBlog Man of the Match: Phil Burleigh was impressive with a number of nice touches, but you’ve got to go for WP Nel really don’t you? Did his job superbly, seeing off two looseheads and scoring a try (or two, depending on your viewpoint).