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PRO14 Round 15: Edinburgh 34-17 Dragons

Duhan Van Der Merwe
Duhan van der Merwe stretches his legs- pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

Despite it being the mid Six Nations break a decent crowd, including a large contingent of happy and vocal Argentinians, showed up at BT Murrayfield for this latest round of the PRO14.  It turned out to be an enjoyable, if nervy at times, match between Edinburgh – keen to maintain an unbeaten home run this season – and a Dragons side who haven’t won away since 2015.

Edinburgh kicked off to start the match but Dragons  cleared their half comfortably and quickly found themselves on attack close to the Edinburgh line.  A strong defensive set from the hosts kept them at bay for a few phases before a thumping tackle by Jaco van Der Walt, on his opposite number Josh Lewis, forced the turnover by Ceccarelli. That led to a penalty and Edinburgh cleared up to the halfway line.

A couple of plays later Edinburgh had a lineout halfway between the Dragons 22 and the 10 metre line. Mata, playing at scrum half, fed Chris Dean on a cracking line that dissected the Dragons defence before he was hauled down. The ball was quickly recycled a couple of times before it reached James Johnstone who danced his way through four Dragons defenders to open the scoring. Van Der Walt continued his good work from the tee to add the extras.

If that was the sublime the ridiculous was to follow as Dragons levelled the score no more than 30 seconds after the restart. They worked it up the nearside and scored what seemed like far too easy a try in the corner through Tyler Morgan.

It wasn’t long before Edinburgh regained the lead. With advantage being played after Dragons collapsed a scrum just inside their half Pyrgos picked out Darcy Graham, in off his wing, with an inside pass. He drew the defender before passing to Johnstone to score his second of the night. Van Der Der Walt made it 20/20 successful kicks for Edinburgh this season to extend the lead to 14-7.

The topsy turvy nature of the first half continued very soon after.  Edinburgh looked to attack from just inside their half but Dragons were quick off the line and Tyler Morgan pounced on a somewhat lazy looking pass from Chris Dean and ran in Dragons second score of the night unopposed. Josh Lewis kicked the conversion to level the scores. A Josh Lewis penalty on the 25th minute was the last score of the half.

Half-time: Edinburgh 14-17 Dragons

Whatever Richard Cockerill said at half time it clearly galvanised the team and they started the second half at a furious pace. With only a minute gone, Dragons coughed up the ball through an unforced error and the Edinburgh backs moved the ball wide. A floated pass from Dean to Graham found the Hawick man in space. He turned on the afterburners before chipping the fullback and chasing through. He won the footrace with Dragons wing Will Talbot-Davies but the bounce of the ball in the in-goal area defeated him.

Edinburgh eventually levelled the scores in the 55th minute through a Jaco Van Der Walt penalty.

Edinburgh regained the lead just  as the last quarter of the match got underway. The excellent Magnus Bradbury drove for the line off the back of a maul from a lineout on the Dragons 5 metre line. The ball was recycled for a few phases before it ended up back in Bradbury’s hands just under the posts and he was driven over the line by the supporting forwards.  Van Der Walt once again kicked the conversion to give the home side a cushion.

The match was put out of Dragons grasp on the 68th minute. Edinburgh forced a turnover after a huge hit by Bradbury on Talbot-Davies. Chris Dean looped a pass to Duhan Van Der Merwe lurking on the left wing. He still had four Dragons defenders to beat but used his power to burst through three tacklers before stepping inside the last man to score. Van Der Walt had his first miss of the season off the tee to leave the score at Edinburgh 29 Dragons 17.

The coup de grace was delivered in the dying seconds of the match.  The Edinburgh forwards worked through the phases in the shadow of the Dragons posts before moving the ball left. Dougie Fife drew a defender out of the line which gave Van Der Merwe an overlap to score in the corner. The try was unconverted.

A satisfactory outcome with some well worked tries and the now familiar dominant Edinburgh last 20 minutes.  The bonus point was also secured and Ulster’s very narrow win at Ospreys made that a potentially crucial advantage.

If I’m being ultra-critical though Edinburgh shouldn’t be relying on that last quarter to pull them clear as the better sides they will face in the next few months as we get down to the business end of the season won’t be as generous.

A special word for veteran Ross Ford making his 200th appearance in the PRO14 (/PRO12/Magners etc). Also a British Lion and Scotland centurion.  Most can only dream of such a career. If I had a pound for every time someone wrote him off I’d be a wealthy man but he had a fine game against Dragons and continues to defy the critics.  When he finally decides he’s had enough I’m sure he’ll be able to look back with pride at his achievements and dedication to the Edinburgh and Scotland cause.

Referee: Andrew Brace (IRFU)

Attendance: 4,584

SRBlog Man of the Match: James Johnstone had a cracking game and the first of his two tries shows what the former Scotland Sevens man can do against a disorganised defence (L’équipe Française, ça vous tente?) however Magnus Bradbury is the clear winner. After 4 months out Maggie played the full 80 minutes and chased and harried Dragons around all game like St George.  His own try put Edinburgh ahead and his hit on Talbot –Davies shortly after led directly to the decisive score.  If he didn’t impress the watching Scotland coaching team enough to bring him back into the international squad then I’d be hugely surprised.

55 Responses

  1. I would definitely have Bradbury in at 6 in Paris. The carry for his try was tremendous and is what Scotland have been lacking.

    James Johnstone might a shout for 13 although I suspect we will see Horne and Johnson in the centres.

    1. I agree i think it would be a good balance to the backrow and would help Strauss out massively to share out the carrying, at the very least has earned a spot in the 23 i hope.

    2. I agree i think it would be a good balance to the backrow and would help Strauss out massively to share out the carrying, at the very least has earned a spot in the 23 i hope.

  2. Nice tribute to Ross Ford there, Sandy. He’s taken a few pelters from Scotland fans (including myself) down the years, but for most of his Scotland career he was to be fair part of a national set-up languishing in the Test match doldrums. That he can still do a job helping to keep Edinburgh competitive in the Pro 14 while the international players are away says much about his professionalism, fitness and determination.

    1. Thanks John. Been there myself at moments but he has done his best when selected and what more can you ask.

  3. This would be my Scotland team for the France game:

    15 – Blair Kinghorn
    14 – Darcy Graham
    13 – Nick Grigg
    12 – Sam Johnson
    11 – Sean Maitland
    10 – Finn Russell
    9 – Greig Laidlaw (C)
    1 – Allan Dell
    2 – Stuart McInally
    3 – Zander Fagerson
    4 – Grant Gilchrist
    5 – Jonny Gray
    6 – Jamie Ritchie
    7 – John Hardie
    8 – Magnus Bradbury

    (16 – Fraser Brown)
    (17 – Jamie Bhatti)
    (18 – Simon Berghan)
    (19 – Richie Gray)
    (20 – Josh Strauss)
    (21 – George Horne)
    (22 – Pete Horne)
    (23 – Tommy Seymour)

    If Hardie isn’t fit, Strauss starts at 8 with Ritchie at 7 and Bradbury at 6. Luke Crosbie comes onto the bench at 20.
    If George Horne isn’t fit, Price is named on the bench at 21.

    I’d call James Johnstone, George Turner and Richie Gray (HE’S FIT AND STARTING FOR TOULOUSE!) into the squad; Johnstone as a replacement for Huw Jones, and Gray and Turner because they’re fit again.

    1. Id put James Johnstone or Rory Hutchinson in ahead of Grigg and Harris for the 13 spot…and Richie Gray surely into contention for the 23 if he plays again this weekend and comes through match fit. I like your 6,7,8 selection…Luke Crosbie can’t be far off either …he really looks a player. Strauss hasn’t been terrible but he hasn’t been great either…give a younger player a chance GT!

    2. 15 Kinghorn. 14 Graham. 13 Johnstone. 12Johnson. 11 Maitland. 10 Russell. 9 Price. 1 Bhatti. 2McInally. (C). 3 Berghan. 4 Gilchrist. 5 Toolis. 6 Bradbury. 7 Ritchie. 8 Ashe. . 16 Brown. 17 Dell. 18 Fagerson. 19 J Gray. 20 Strauss. 21 Laidlaw. 22 P Horne. 23 Seymour

  4. Despite injuries and six nations cover, both our (European qualified) sides, won this weekend. Glasgow did very well to close out against a side who had the lions share of the momentum in the second half. We seem to have depth and resiliance , it has been a long time coming . As fans , we just need to clinch by the inch because the next steps are hard by the yard.

    1. Just looked at Edinburgh’s run home…they have a hard road ahead to hang onto second spot.

      Head to heads with Benetton (a) and Ulster (h) are must win. Scarlets (a) is also a risk.

      Benetton may fade with also a toughish draw, but Ulster have Zebre (h), the Dragons (a) and the Kings (h).

      1. Remaining fixtures are
        (H) Cardiff
        (A) Benetton
        (H) Leinster
        (A) Scarlets
        (H) Ulster
        (A) Glasgow

        Probably need to win at least four of those games to keep 2nd spot.

        Ulstet have easiest run in but last three games are

        (A) Glasgow
        (A) Edinburgh
        (H) Leinster

        Leinster will be sending them their u18s to beat though

  5. We know GT will have both Horne and Harris involved so while it’s fun to speculate about Dean, Johnstone, McDowall and Hutchison…..aint going to happen.
    Still room for him to be, ahem “clever” and make a mess of it.
    I doubt both will start but if Horne benches there is no need for Harris there as well. Horne covers 10 + midfield so why waste back 3 cover on a stop gap winger. Ideal chance for Darcy Graham you would think.

    Reckon it will be Johnson(S) and Harris. Grigg at 13 is something the French would target. We are everyones favourite team for restoring lost confidence. Lets make someone work for it this time!
    Back row of Strauss Ritchie & Bradbury/Hardie (other to bench is fine if fit)

    Bench Laidlaw. Being stuck in 1st gear “controlling” us to a 1 point lead is no good for us against a French team looking for an arm wrestle.

  6. Folks it’s just been brought to my attention that I’ve got it slightly wrong regarding our Mr Ford. It seems that his 200 appearances are in the PRO14 in its various guises so that includes his time with Border Reivers. His 200 for Edinburgh isn’t far away though. I’ll get the main text updated when I can.

  7. Interesting to hear from Bradbury that he’s used the time out to get in the gym and is up to 115kg and still feels fit. That’s heavier than Strauss and I reckon other than Denton he’s by far our heaviest back row now.

    Good to see the Edinburgh lads like Bradbury and Ritchie and Crosbie (both 108-110kg with room to add more) who are much bigger than some of our other backrows who are good but undersized at international level, and all three certainly aren’t lumbering or lacking pace. Could do worse than a back row of:


    Against France with Strauss at 8 in for Crosbie who I’d have have on the bench if the above is a bit raw.

  8. Bradbury looked fit, strong & mobile for his 18st +. Very interesting the team selection V France, especially the back row, given the absences @ 7 I do like Fraser Brown in that position, he’s great in the loose, adds beef & experience. Bradbury’s kick chases were superb & resulted in 2 scores (i think). Ritchie has played very well so far. Strauss carried well V Ireland

  9. Finn off with an HIA just before half-time for Racing v Toulouse (with Richie Gray playing for Toulouse). Took a knee directly to the head after mistiming his tackle. Looked very groggy and struggling to get up. Would be surprised to see him return to the field after half-time. Fingers crossed it’s not serious…

    1. Not a good sign! Only 1 week to recover ……. let’s start the discussion of who to make 10 v France. I suspect Horne

      1. Sunday to Saturday I think is not enough time for the graduated return to play protocols….6 days symptom free (starting Monday?)…he’s a goner for France.

    2. He’s not back on the field, but was briefly shown standing up/walking in the stand with the Racing squad and later on sitting watching. Looked okay, but so difficult to know with concussion protocols, and he certainly doesn’t look his chirpy self on the sidelines. Mind you, Racing are losing badly, so that might be the reason for his gloominess…

      1. Well it’s obviously not weir who hasn’t even been in the 6N squad. Probably Horne with Hastings in the bench.

  10. Here’s one! wait for it…………… Laidlaw to 10!! Remember it was only last year after a warm up in the carpark that Gregor thought of such a marvellous plan!!!

  11. I think a return for Weir is in order,he’s playing well for his club and in better form than Hastings. Hoping as well for a recall for Jackson at full back

    1. Agree Weir has being playing well but can’t see it as think Townsend will stick with players in squad. Can’t see Jackson featuring either as Kinghorn and Maitland covering 15

  12. Doesn’t sound good for Finn as far as France game goes unfortunately – if we didn’t have bad luck we would have none at all! As FF stated further up the thread probably means Horne starts at 10 with Hastings on bench which is how Glasgow started last night. Lang hasn’t been near Scotland squad since Summer tour and although Weir was called into squad for AI’s he was released pretty quickly so don’t see either featuring although Weir might get a shout as cover.
    Any word on how Ritchie Gray went for Toulouse today? At least it wasn’t him got injured tackling?

  13. I’ve had a decent bet on France to beat us so this is music to my ears. Hopefully Hastings and Harris her the nod.

  14. France – Big pack, need to move them around , pinning them in their half with clever kicks is a good idea, England did just that and have the depth to stay there..

    As we know Horne can be inconsistent from the boot and France will run any stray kicks back at us. Weir would bring an accurate tactical kicking strategy , I just cannot see Townsend limiting Scotland to that solo strength while Horne is demonstrating his form on a weekly basis . In among all of this Hastings is running short of game time anywhere and . Big game as the number 2 for a man who has been denied game time of late. Weir on the other hand has engratiated himself at Worcester and is the talk of the toon . That Duncan Weir bench option is not as daft as it seems but lacks the maverick gamble Towsend thrives on.

  15. Here is my “somewhat painful” experience re Duncan Weir and Duncan Weir in a Scotland shirt. Tremendous club player, excellent kicker of the rugby ball and a big heart. However whilst the theory is fine for when he played for Scotland, his play never built on the theory, quite simply far too slow of feet & mind to play for Scotland (especially the way we endeavor to play these days). If Finn is out it HAS to be Pete Horne, it all adds to the excitement/trepidation. I’ll need strong drink…………
    Finally, to see how lucky we are on this Blog, have a wee read of some of the wasters, dipsticks, clowns blogging on BBC rugby

  16. Going to be an interesting start to the week to see who gets called up, and an interesting end to see who gets picked.

    As a sensible plan I’d like to seethe injury returners on the bench at best. No need to risk more. But that’s not very Toony Tombola.

    If Finn was indeed a HIA he shouldn’t play – as others have noted France comes before the minimum number of days before he can be cleared from concussion. He’s a massive loss but player welfare comes first and playing him would be an insult to all those head injury ads up around Murrayfield.

    I think we seen Duncan called up for cover but not played. Horne at 10 and Hastings on the bench. I don’t really go in for this parachuting folk in idea. That was the pecking order at the start of the 6N and Horne is on form and an experienced head. He’s not the same guy that missed touch vs Italy in 2015 so let’s give him a break!

    Back row I’m not averse to seeing Brown at 7 tbh, but I think with both him and George Turner newly back from injury coupled with potentially bringing the likes of Fagerson, Bradbury, even G Horne back into the squad then you are exposing a lot of players who are not fully up to speed.

    So I think Ritchie at 6, Hardie at 7, Strauss at 8 and either Bradbury or Ashe getting a well-deserved place on the bench to cover the inevitable Strauss or Hardie injury. Alternative of Ritchie/Strauss/Ashe with Bradbury on the bench.

    God knows what happens in the centres. With Horne at 10 likely to see Johnson and Grigg but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Harris instead.

    Think we see Weir, R Gray, JJ and Turner joining the squad but all unlikely to play. Don’t see Jackson getting a call up.

    1. As Cammy has noted on the Scottish Rugby Forum on FB Finn can still be back if Sir Dr James agrees. Fingers crossed. Still think we see Weir in for cover though.

    2. If Finn has failed a HIA and doesn’t complete his RTPP it’ll be out of Toonie’s hands as he wont be permitted to play.

      However, I thought the minimum was 5 days and the 6th day the final assessment, which could be done prior to Saturday’s match. They’ll probably know earlier anyway as if he has symptoms at any stage of the RTPP he’ll be out.

      Don’t think Turner and Briwn should be called up as Glasgoe have a must win game in pro14 on Friday and he’d only be travelling as 24th man.

    3. Call-ups as predicted apart from Fife joins and no Ritchie Gray.

      SRU article is tight-lipped on Russell’s chances. He’s in camp but confirmed head knock and graduated return to play protocol.

      Zander, Bradbury, Turner, JJ, Fife and the Pudding called up.

      Fife won’t get near a matchday squad and Weir unlikely to without another injury.

      George Horne ruled out injured :(

      1. Seems odd to me how few people are thinking Hastings will start – seen a lot of P.Horne, Laidlaw, Weir and even Lang.

        He may have had a bit of a rough patch, but he is surely still the backup to Russell. I can understand him not being on the bench so we can cover more positions, but he is the best specialist 10 option we have.

        Shame G.Horne is out, he really deserves to get some game time and show what he can do. Bit concerning if he doesn’t play the rest of the 6n he will lose out in the World Cup as well.

      2. Agree, short memories here in Scotland. His start to the season was electric and he needs more game time before the world cup.

        Not entertaining anyone saying it will be Weir, Lang or Laidlaw. P Horne in on better form for club and country since November IMO so think he deserves to be first cab off the rank for France. Still think we could definitely see Hastings start at 10 this championship if Russell doesn’t return.

        If G Horne returns at anywhere near the level he was at for Glasgow before he got injured I reckon the warm up games will be enough to get him in the WC squad.

      3. Hastings had a definite wobble in form at just the wrong time. Would be a big call to throw in a young player with little recent confident rugby under his belt into start at Stade de France. On the other hand, if he isn’t selected now his prospects of making the RWC squad look a lot less bright as we need to take players we can trust and no passengers.

  17. What goes through people’s heads when they think Brown (a hooker) can play 7 after only being back a couple of weeks in a 6Ns test match.

    It’s absolute bobbins.

    1. He can play 7. He’s done so at international level a couple of times under Toony. Not in 6N, but clearly he’s been played there to prep him for flexibility during the WC or in times of injury crisis (like now).

      Completely agree that putting him out in this match at that position so soon after injury return isn’t a good idea.

      It’s about as absolute bobbins as playing Grieg Tonks at fullback in a test against Australia or having Laidlaw as 10 cover during a 6 nations match. Aka, right up Townsend’s street.

      1. Test rugby is measured in miliseconds and mm – players need to instinctively do things and for all Brown’s skills and attributes he does not instinctively act like a 7 on the pitch.

      2. Again true, but I don’t think anyone is suggesting that he replaces Watson, Barcs or Ritchie. Toony clearly thinks he can do a job there if need-be. I’d take him over Crosbie, for example, in that position at the moment.

        Brown also has plenty of 7-esque instinct at the breakdown. His turnover stats attest to that. In my mind he’s the best non-back row jackler in the country alongside an in-form Dunbar. Scotland grow hookers that act like back-rows around the pitch these days anyway.

      3. Better than Ritchie, no. Better than Hardie, still no. But combination of Hardie form/long time out and Toony wanting a different sort of player or a less breakable one I could see him being picked over Hardie. I wouldn’t personally be putting him anywhere in the back row against France.

  18. With the recent additions to the squad, what do we think of this as a starting 15 ?

    I know Johnstone won’t go straight in, but from a personal viewpoint, he offers more than the alternatives [Harris, Grigg].
    Don’t see Weir getting in there either, I just think we need someone to control the game against France and he has that in his locker. So I’ld accept Horne/Hastings and Horne/Harris instead, and it still has the look of a team that can beat France.

    1. I don’t think Weir should start either. Far too much of a gamble, no matter how well he’s been playing for Worcester this season.
      The last time he was picked to try to control a Test by kicking from hand was Dublin 2016. That selection backfired totally. I don’t think he’s earned a Test start since and, despite reported good form for his club, it’s still doubtful to me at least that he’s genuine Test class.
      He could also look forward (not) to being targeted ruthlessly by the France midfield and big ball carriers. His defence against big lads running straight at him has always been suspect.

    2. Don’t think Fagerson is test-match fit yet. I also don’t see Weir or Johnstone getting in the starting XV ahead of Horne/Hastings and Grigg/Harris respectively.

  19. If Finn is not fit how about a back line of:
    9 Price or G Horne,
    10 P Horne,
    11 Seymour,
    12 Hastings
    13 S Johnson,
    14 Maitland
    15 Kinghorn

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