Much is expected of Robbie Fruean if pedigree can overcome fitness, but his first touch in this Friday night game at Myreside left him walking gingerly after spilling the ball out of a big wrap tackle. Welcome to the PRO14 indeed.
The debut centre wasn’t the only one at fault in a poor opening quarter from Edinburgh: Stuart McInally overthrew his first lineout and Blair Kinghorn fumbled a ball on the deck to keep the Dragons supplied with easy possession.
It did give Edinburgh’s defence – at times imperious against Cardiff – a good warm-up in the absence of tackling machine John Hardie. Hamish Watson is an able replacement and
they withstood the early forays from the Dragons, who were well marshalled by the reassuringly-tanned Gavin Henson.
His wings Ashton Hewitt and Hallam Amos found a hole in the Edinburgh line and the scramble defence was tested. It held but Fruean was adjudged offside by South African ref Stuart Berry, and Gavin Henson took the first points.
He took the next points as well, with a hefty drop goal showing he’s still a class act on the rugby field. He was pulling the strings nicely, while Edinburgh did little else but defend.
It was 20 minutes in before Edinburgh had their first meaningful attack; there was good control of the ball and some nice distribution from Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Duncan Weir but they couldn’t find a gap. A Weir penalty gave Edinburgh their first points, and another from a scrum collapse followed soon after to even things up.
When Edinburgh finally got near the Dragons 22 after some scintillating breaks from Blair Kinghorn (who was even better than last week), all eyes in the Dragons midfield were on the big man Fruean but it was Chris Dean who cut a superb angle on to Duncan Weir’s pass before popping it out the back door to Kinghorn who scampered over for the try. Weir converted to make it 13-6 after half an hour.
Edinburgh had their tails up, and Kinghorn was cutting the Dragons line – rearranged by injury – almost at will. The home side almost had a try but there was to be a sting in the tale of the half, as the referee had spotted Duncan Weir doing a bit of old-school mountaineering on a prostrate Dragons player.
Weir was yellow-carded and Edinburgh went into half time a man down, even as a further Henson penalty brought the visitors within touching distance.
Half-time: Edinburgh 13-9 Dragons
With Weir back on the pitch after just a few minutes, the full strength Edinburgh started to show what they are all about with a committed kick chase – where before it might have been just laid back – allowing Jason Harries to pounce on the ball that Zane Kirchner failed to deal with. With the ball flung right quickly, a lumbering pass from first-receiver Ben Toolis looked like it might kill the momentum but Rasolea had the wit to just pop it into space for Kinghorn who steamed on to it and through a gap at pace, before changing direction and passing to Hidalgo-Clyne who dived over for the score.
The Dragons might have looked a little disorganised in the middle period of the game under coach Bernard Jackman but they weren’t rolling over completely and they started the half with nearly as much ball as they had in the opening minutes of the first; two more Henson penalties making the score close at 20-15 on the hour mark.
Despite not being able to dominate as they should with that pack, Edinburgh looked confident in defence there was far less “I’ll do it myself” type defending that leaves holes. Edinburgh aren’t the finished article by any means, but they finally look like a team who trust each other.
The penalties though, were a worry, with Edinburgh conceding three times as many as the Dragons in the second half and the referee very sharp on the whistle for both sides. It threatened to provide a nervy final quarter of the match even as Henson kicked his fifth to narrow the lead to just 2 points.
Luckily the next whistle went Edinburgh’s way and Weir was true to form, pulling the lead back out as the benches were emptied.
The fresh legs gave them impetus and on penalty advantage, refreshingly they took a chance with the ball in hand, Fruean delaying his pass nicely to allow Rasolea space to bundle over for the try in the corner. That stretched the lead out to ten points but from there both sides were still trying to attack in search of bonus points of one kind or the other.
To the delight of the slightly sparse Myreside crowd, the bonus point try went to that man Fruean, cutting a fine line off a fizzing pass to run over unopposed. Pounding the badge on his chest was a sign of what it means to repay the faith that has been shown in him by the club. It looked comfortable on the scoreboard but the teams weren’t as far apart as all that. The lineout was poor, defence was good but not as good as last week but trust and confidence in themselves pulled this one back.
If Edinburgh can keep winning and putting in committed performances like this, Myreside shouldn’t be sparse for long, but far tougher and less forgiving tests await.
Referee: Stuart Berry (SARU)
SRBlog Man of the Match: I got a bit of stick for not acknowledging Blair Kinghorn last week in favour of Jamie Ritchie who was my standout. Official MotM Ritchie was good again this week amidst a more even pack performance (aside from Michele Rizzo who I barely noticed), but in the backs Kinghorn was irresistible. Some lovely angles of running, and far more secure in defence under the tutelage of Calum Macrae. The most exciting thing, is his awareness. With Stuart Hogg currently inured, he’s in the right place at the right ime.