Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Edinburgh Rugby 35-18 The Dragons

Edinburgh vs Dragons
© Scottish Rugby Blog

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)

Attendance: 3,324

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.

46 Responses

  1. Bonus point win too. Excellent. Good to hear Cockerill’s post-match interview. He nailed it. A comfortable win in the end but, as he said, lots to work on because some of the play was sloppy tonight.
    Dragons look like they’ve improved a bit from last season.
    Much bigger tests ahead for Embra but a good start to this Pro 14.
    Is Magnus a fan of the 8Os band the Thomson Twins? His haircut would suggest he is.

  2. I thought hoyland was in with a shout of motm, showed up really well in defence and kick chase all game. No tries but worked really hard. Can’t complain with kinghorn or Richie though. SHC looking like he’s back to some form too. Great result.

    Cockerill is such a great addition, bonus point win and his post match interview is all about how he is disappointed that they should have done better. Pushing the expectations higher.

    Myreside seemed like it was in good spirits too. The ground change is certainly a positive.

    1. I thought so too, he came in off his wing repeatedly looking for work and, as a result, showed up really well in broken play.

  3. Watched the game, for me one of the best points was the consistent, clear refereeing from the Saffer. Miles in front of the usual clowns we have to put up with, if nothing else, the expansion will help by raising the level of officiating if this guy is a benchmark. Didn’t agree with all of his call, but he was commendably clear and consistent.

    Embra showed plenty of character to put the foot on the pedal when the pressure was on – well done.

    1. Agreed. Initially I was annoyed at a couple of his decisions, but when he applied the same standard to Dragons I approved. He was clear and considered in his communication, too.

      1. I agree too. Having the SARU refs in the pro12 might just help our boys on their southern tours too, with the way they ref the breakdown in particular (hands out, roll away immediately) often a problem for us/NH sides on tour.

  4. Fruen looked rusty which is to be expected given he hasn’t played much rugby recently, what he did do looked good. If they can get him fully sharp then Edinburgh will certainly push for a play off space I believe.

    1. The decision for Duncy’s yellow was correct too, if a little soft. I got the impression the ref saw it in real time, and just wanted confirmation before showing a yellow. The disallowed Dragons try was the only decision I really thought was wrong, but the was the TMO’s call

  5. Two games on the trot that last year you wouldn’t have been surprised to see Edinburgh lose, but with basically the same players. Cockerill seems to be making the desired waves. His post match interview definitely gave that impression.

    What really struck me was the lines of running leading to 3 of the tries. Dean, Kinghorn and Fruean came deep and fast, leaving defenders with too much to do. Last year Edinburgh would never have hit those angles – in fact, Dragons looked like the Edinburgh of yore, with lots of steadfast endeavour, but no cutting edge. I’m looking forward to seeing Duncan Weir acting as the axis for Mark Bennett to run off with Kinghorn, Hoyland, Harries and co benefitting.

    Mikelinds – I thought the ref did well, but on occasion he seemed to be talking at odds to his signals? Overall a good start for SA officials though. On the down side, why was the Dragons player called in touch? Match changing decision and I think they will feel aggrieved over that one.

    1. I feel bad for the Dragons about that call, but they’d called similar for Edinburgh a minute before, and usually it’s us on the receiving end of those decisions, so I’ll not lose any sleep over it…

      The attack was pretty good, so is Hodge doing a good job?

      1. I think Hodge is being managed correctly by Cockerill. If that means an improvement in his coaching then so be it.

  6. Two things:

    1) Damien Hoyland is second in the turnover stats with 4 so far (Ritchie is 1st with 5)
    2) I think you’ve got the wrong logo in the picture – they’re just called “Dragons” now.

    Bonus 3rd thing: well-played on getting the review up so quickly! Really gave me the fix I needed post-match in a sleepy inn.

  7. Disappointing turn out for first home game of the season. Hopefully a few more wins, the improved facilities and a bit of word of mouth will build crowds through the season. We really need to make myreside a success. Anyone go to the match?

  8. Spot on re the comments about cockrills post match interview. Really nice to see that he was disappointed with the level of performance as for large parts the error count was too big. However, surely a sign of a half decent side if you can lose and still get a bonus point win. The dragons don’t have many superstars but they probably won’t be the whipping boys they have been in pervious season, the foot in touch decision was incredibly harsh.

    Kinghorn had a fantastic match again and good to see both him and Ritchie backed up excellent performances from last week into this, that’s the consistency that has been lacking for too long. Chris dean was good again and think he’s had a hand in quite a few of the tries this season. Some touches of brilliance from fruean culminating in a great try, once fully fit he will be a real handful for any defence in this competition. Hoyland had a very good match as well and probably shows what a new regime and competition for places generates, he knows the likes of graham, fife, VDM will want that jersey.

    If there has been a negative for me so far it’s been the lack of dominance from the pack. There are some good players in there and admittedly we have our 4/5th choice looseheads playing, but would like so see more in the scrum and the rolling maul (had one good one in 2nd half from memory). Du preez had an absolute shocker when he came on and maybe a position we lack a bit of depth in?

    Overall great performance though, 6 tries in two games and only 2 conceded and a real chance to build momentum now against the Italian sides.

    1. In addition to Du Preez having (another) poor game, Hamish Watson seemed pretty subdued. I wonder if it’s because he was doing the ‘unseen’ work like Hardie last week or if he’s just got to get back up to speed?

      1. Agreed, he was fairly quiet by his usual jack-in-the-box standards, possibly needed the game and like you say might have done more unseen work than was noticeable at first. Du preez knocked on 3 times from memory, very poor indeed.

    2. If they really can lose and still get a bonus point win as you suggest, they’ll be unstoppable!

  9. Scotland’s home matches pretty much all sell out 67,000.

    Edinburgh, with loads of Scottish internationals and future internationals, get just over 3,000 on a decent Autumn evening, with a good win in season opener behind them.

    Something isn’t right with the way the club is marketed.

    1. I always think marketing etc. is over-thought. In professional sport there is one thing and one thing only that will consistently get bums on seats; winning. If edinburgh have a good season and, say, reach the play-offs, their attendances will rise. Nobody likes the miserable experience of a losing team being awful week-in week-out.

      If you need evidence, look no further than the autumn international sell-outs you mention; just a few years ago these were averaging significantly lower crowds. Indeed, I think these may be the first sell-out AIs EVER!

  10. My tuppence worth:
    Duncan Weir followed up a good performance last week with an average one this week. We need him to be consistently on top of his game.

    The midfield look like they need a few games to gel. Hopefully once they do our attack will be more consistent.

    We need to cut out the mistakes (which possibly come from the midfield not quite gelling yet).

    Our forwards don’t seem to be as confident or able to run and pass as the Dragons forwards were which was a worry.

    I criticised SHC at the end of last season but he looks like a different player now. Crisp passing, breaks round the fringes – excellent game last night.

    Could be the difference between the end of a dismal season and the start of one with promise and a new coach but the players look much more enthusiastic and like they are enjoying themselves compared to last season. Everyone is eager to have a go. Long may it continue.

  11. Attendance – with a winning start it must be dreadfully disappointing to all concerned to attract just 3324.

    Edinburgh looked (for the 1st time in a few years) to be playing for one another.

    Kinghorn, Hoyland, Dean, Ritchie , Toolis were all excellent, what has happened to Du Preez? he looks an absolute shadow of the player he was.

    Still have reservations about Weir, a brilliant kicker & a trier, but not a top stand off

  12. anyone know if the edinburgh game is being brostcast against treviso next friday ? cant find information about it

  13. Bit surprised that no-ones come forward on the Glasgow game. It, for me, was an oddity, Glasgow, mostly were poor, missed a lot of first up tackles, then made the clinchers. Had not many chances, but really punished Ospreys mistakes. Ospreys had little or no invention.

    Plus points, Dunbar – preseason seems to have given him pace back. He would never have scored try 1 last year. CG – what a signing.

    Heaven help the side that gets Glasgow at full strength and on song.

    1. Agree Alex Dunbar seems to have recovered his zip. His run in for his first try reminded me of his second try v Italy in Rome 2014 – in a move started by big Sean’s bulldozing of wee Tommy Allen.

  14. Some decent play in parts & great to see Kinghorn really upping his game. However, the line out at times was a mess, boardering on an embarrassment. We’ve been worried about back-up at 10 & 15 for a while but now glimmers of possible quality alternatives emerging e.g. Kinghorn, Hastings. It seems that loose-head & hooker are an issue now. McInally is a way off, a Turner hasn’t yet shown he’s top drawer which still leaves a lot resting on Fordy when Brown is injured. With both Dicko & Sutherland still out, Reid now relegated to a subs spot, we are looking rather short of top flight loose-heads other than “honorary” Lion, Alan Dell. Here’s hoping this season sees the emergence of some young front-row talent (& maybe Kevin Bryce reversing his choice of position).

  15. How’s this for a 23 against Samoa?:

    1. Dell
    2. Brown
    3. Fagerson
    4. Cummings
    5. Toolis
    6. Barclay
    7. Hardie
    8. Ashe
    9. Price
    10. Russell
    11. Visser
    12. Dunbar
    13. Jones
    14. Seymour
    15. Maitland
    16. Ford
    17. Reid
    18. Nel
    19. Swinson
    20. Watson
    21. Laidlaw
    22. Taylor
    23. Kinghorn

    Plenty of grunt, flair, skills in the loose and a classy set of subs, all of whom bring a point of difference.

    1. Think Kinghorn should start at 15. We know what Maitland can do but Kinghorn could well back up Hogg come the World Cup so needs to start getting test exposure now whilst his confidence is high.

      Plus neither him nor Laidlaw should be considered as FH cover for Scotland. Might as well get Hastings in for Samoa and probably Horne for following tests.

      1. To me, Kinghorn looks a fantastic player in the fact I think he looks like he will be a better FB than Hogg eventually.

        Reminds me of Folau from Oz…If he can bulk up ..which he looks like he is trying to do.

        Should definitely be introduced at the AIs …start against Samoa…and perhaps bench v NZ and or OZ.

    2. Dell proved he wasn’t up to scrumming at loose head last year, so youi give him the starting spot? Scotland were going backwards at such a speed in the scrum last year it was embarrassing.
      What has changed in a year to give him the starting spot?
      It has to be Gordon Reid until Dell improves his scrummage, or Dickinson comes back from injury.

      1. Samoa aren’t exactly scrumming masters, are they? And as soon as Ireland stopped boring he was just fine. If he proves a liability, you can always bring Reid on.

      2. Can’t see Dickinson coming back to play test level again. He’s been out for a long stretch…will take time to get his performance levels even if/when he is fully fit. Clock is ticking on his career unfortunately.

      3. Agree re Dickinson, given his age and length of time out, even if he did manage to come back it’s highly likely it won’t be to the same standard. Time to be considering other options now.

    3. I heard a rumour that Visser has been frozen out at Quinns, so he might not be fit. If that’s the case, maybe Maitland at 11 and Kinghorn at 15? Possibly Hoyland may start at 11 too, but I think he tends to play 14.

      I’m not sure if Reid has been starting for LI, anyone know? If not, he’ll not be fit either. There might be a big step up to the Scotland bench for Bhatti, if none of Sutherland, Dickenson et. al. are fit. Having said that, maybe a half-fit Reid will get the nod over such an inexperienced player.

      If everyone was fit and available, your 23 looks good. I’m not sure Toonie won’t go for a full strength team though, especially given the Fiji result in the summer.

      1. I had noticed that Viss wasn’t playing. Quinns are a disaster, anyway. Hopefully he’s not been frozen out, it’s not like they’re blessed with great players. Agree with your suggestions, but I’d like to see a more experimental team against Samoa – rankings don’t matter at present and Toonie could do with seeing what they’ve to offer.

      2. Reid hasn’t been starting, but both him and Ben Franks have come on after 50 mins in first 2 games.
        What is the story with Dickinson and Sutherland?
        They both seem to have been out of action for over a year each.
        It sounds like more than a toe injury for Dickinson, which was how it was being reported at one time.

  16. Or his quite remarkable 1 try every 2 games stat (Edinburgh – Quins – Scotland), I’ve always thought Visser a remarkably maligned player given he is simply brilliant at scoring tries.

    1. His scoring record is incredible, even in his last year at Edinburgh when Solomons was preaching “up the jumper”.

  17. Wee bit off topic but as an exile & very rarely get to club games these days can anyone give me any local info on Ben Robbins?

    He seemed to have everything – champion athlete, MacPhail scholarship, you tube highlights video…

    His career seems to have stalled somewhat


    1. No idea. He played (and scored twice) for Currie at the weekend there and last season he played both for Scotland sevens and London Scottish. Perhaps he just isn’t ready yet – he is around 20/21 so still has time. If he tears it up in the prem this year he will be in and around the Edinburgh squad next year I’m sure (ala Darcy Graham). I don’t think he is part of the Academy system any longer though – the last update in May 2017 didn’t include him.

      1. Made no league appearances for LS, was one of the initial contingent last year and headed back home sharpish.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion