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Newportgwentdragons: 27 (24) Edinburgh Rugby: 19 (12)

Time was when the Embramen would travel to Rodney Parade, get roundly bullied up front and return to the capital defeated men.  This outing was different, I suppose, in that it was the home side's brain rather than their brawn that proved to be the Gunners' undoing.  But it was still a loss, as the Dragons leapfrogged Edinburgh in the league.  The Embramen now sit a lowly tenth in the Guiness PRO12 with hopes of a top six finish this season beginning to look somewhat forlorn unless they can develop a bit of consistency.

The highlight - from a Newporter's point of view anyway - must have been the Dragons' first try, notched by South African import Carl Meyer, after veteran hooker Rhys Thomas had cheekily - and perfectly legally - pilfered ball from the back of a rapidly advancing Edinburgh maul to spark the counter.  The breakdown was a bit of a mess all afternoon, but young openside Ollie Griffiths was the deserved Man of the Match after dominating the tackle area. Too often, Edinburgh's support runners were not close enough to protect the ball carrier, while Griffiths' lightning quick reactions allowed him to pilfer ball after the tackle before a ruck had formed. It was frustrating to see Edinburgh falling for the same trick more than once; they really should have been quicker on the uptake.

In a hugely entertaining match that rather belied the difficult playing surface, both sides played with adventure throughout, notching three touchdowns apiece.  It helped that both defences were posted missing for much of the time.   While Edinburgh bested the lineout battle and edged the scrummage, the Dragons' dominated the turnovers won stats 18 to 7.  Ultimately, that decided this contest.

At times this afternoon there were reminders of traditional Edinburgh failings as the Gunners frequently engaged headless chicken mode.  Several promising attacks went abegging as passes were directed at the opposition, while there were far too many wild passes.  A bit more composure would have helped, as would some Mata-style breenges by the pack in the first half, in particular.  As it was, Edinburgh tended to go wide a bit too early.

The Gunners controlled the opening exchanges and were first on the mark. A jinky run by Mike Allen, who had a good game overall, took the ball into the enemy red zone for McCallum to charge forward.  The tyro tighthead's Fijian-style offload found the supporting Kennedy, who came close.  The ball was then shipped wide right for Manu to cross in the corner, well converted by Tovey.  The ambition was typical of the Gunners' afternoon; the precision rather less so.

Shortly afterwards, 'Ray' Bradbury must have breathed a sigh of relief when only penalised after he'd taken the impressive Angus O'Brien late in attempting to charge down a garryowen.  Plenty of referees would have flashed a card at that point, as they would have done for a tip tackle by the Newporters' Thomas and Dixon in the second period.  As it was, O'Brien nailed the kick on 13 minutes.

The home side were starting to get back into this one and scored their first try following Thomas' act of grand larceny on 19 minutes.  And when Hobbs scored a second on 23 minutes, all of a sudden the margin was up to 17-7.

In this see-saw game, good work from McCallum, Allen and Kinghorn set up a series of close-in phases. Eventually, Chris Dean picked and went, just squeezing over for the visitors' second, making the score 17-12 on 27 minutes. But the home lead was stretched immediately afterwards as the Dragons pounced on turnover ball.  O'Brien and former Embraman Sam Beard, who showed up well, combined before the centre kicked a lovely ball through for O'Brien to score.  The TMO was called in to confirm that the first-five hadn't been ahead of the kick.  It was close, but the timing looked to have been absolutely perfect and the score was awarded.  

21-12 Newport at the break and all to play for.  The next score, as always, could be crucial.

On 53 minutes, the Gunners introduced a new half back combo in TGB and SHC. They changed the tactics a little, with Weir kicking a bit more in an effort to build some field position.  Sammy did offer a bit more with ball in hand, but several times struggled for lack of support.  One memorable break would have seen a vintage Sammy pin his ears back and go for it, but instead he delayed for the support runner who never came.

Despite a lot of huffing and puffing in the second period, it took an age for the first score to arrive.  And it was replacement Bill Mata, whose impressive ball carrying consistently punched holes in the home defence, who smashed over on 65 minutes.  The Weir conversion narrowed the gap to 24-19 with plenty of time for the Gunners to nick this one.

Yet while they had Newport under severe pressure at times in the last 10 minutes, their execution was poor.  It seemed fitting that, as the clock ran down with Newport on the Edinburgh 22, Ritchie conceded a penalty at the breakdown. O'Brien duly knocked the simple three pointer over to deny the visitors even a losing bonus point.