At a point when most people would be tucking in to their Sunday roast, Edinburgh took to the field in Newport to take on conference B’s bottom side Dragons.
Both sides were still short of a few internationals: Edinburgh were nine international players light with another bundle on the injured list. Ben Toolis was listed at wing forward with his inclusion in that position described by Richard Cockerill as he was the “last man standing”.
Edinburgh old boy Jason Tovey opened the scoring in the 9th minute with an easy penalty after a period of Dragons possession and territory.
The game then remained very cagey until the 25th minute when Dragons extended their lead further. A missed tackle in the midfield by Chris Dean gave Dragons a little space on the wing and despite a despairing tackle from Henry Pyrgos they crossed in the corner through Jared Rosser. Jason Tovey added the extras to make it Dragons 10 Edinburgh 0.
That try seemed to spark Edinburgh into life, and they went close through a good break from Callum Hunter-Hill which led to a penalty and they opted for a scrum. Nothing came from that but Edinburgh kept up the pressure and forced Dragons into yet another scrum penalty. This time the scrum stayed steady and the backs were released by Pyrgos. Dean thought he had scored but referee Stuart Berry, after an interminable consultation with the TMO, adjudged the centre’s stretch for the line to be a double movement and chalked it off. In hindsight the decision to scrum rather than take the three easy points at this stage of the game looked like a poor choice.
They finally got their reward with the clock in the red at the end of the first half. Chris Dean took advantage of the Dragons rushing up to step outside and into a gap before he released Dougie Fife to score in the corner. Hickey was unable to kick the conversion.
Half-time: Dragons 10-5 Edinburgh
The second half started as the first half did with the possession and the territory all with the home side. The Edinburgh defence stood firm until the 53rd minute when eventually Dragons managed to engineer an overlap to score in the corner through Rosser again. Tovey missed the kick, but extended their lead with a penalty in the 65th minute.
The next score was Edinburgh’s. Pyrgos fed Van Der Walt from a lineout in the midfield and he made a great break before offloading to Darcy Graham. Dragons did manage to get a hold of the Hawick man as he crossed the line but after a lengthy TMO intervention the try was awarded. Van Der Walt added the two to make it Dragons 18 Edinburgh 12 and drawing the visitors within a converted try.
And that was all she wrote despite series of 25 phases on the Dragons try line with the clock in the red, that fizzled out when Edinburgh surrendered possession to allow Dragons to kick it dead.
Yet another defeat on the road for Edinburgh with the bonus point barely being worth the trouble of the travel. There were lots of issues with this game, chief among them being the scheduling but I will deal with that in a separate post. Suffice to say at this juncture that it was a contributing factor in the way this one turned out.
Putting scheduling to one side you would like to think that the prospect of the win and going third would have been enough to motivate the team to put in another Scarlets-type performance but although I can’t fault the effort the team were really flat and their decision making left a bit to be desired. They did come to life in the first half after they got their first try but that energy seemed to dissipate with the half time oranges. Dragons were then allowed to dictate the play in the second half until Van Der Walt was brought into the action which gave Edinburgh some more impetus. Although his arrival did give the team some creativity that was previously lacking, they reverted to type in the dying seconds with repeated rucks on the Dragons line which I don’t expect anyone thought were going to be successful.
So another miserable bus journey home from the principality before trying to regroup quickly for the trip to Cork with probably the same group of players. The fixtures god is not an Edinburgh Rugby fan.
Referee: Stuart Berry (SA RFU)
SRBlog Man of the Match: The second Edinburgh score was a brief high spot in the match with both Van Der Walt and Darcy Graham being instrumental in that and I was tempted to give it to Van Der Walt even though he was only on for the last 25, but instead I have opted for Chris Dean. He had a mixed game but was instrumental in Edinburgh’s first try, and only the TMO’s intervention denied him one for himself.