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OK BLOOPER

Edinburgh: 20 (10) Dragons:7 (0)



At BT Murrayfield this evening, some perspective was lent to what is, after all, only a game by the impeccably observed silence and lone bagpipier playing The Flooers o the Forest to mark this Remembrance time

 

It's been quite a week nonetheless.  Last Saturday, the Springboks simply blew England away in the Rugby World Cup final.  Eddie Jones knew what was coming, and it duly did, but his side just could not live with the brutal efficiency of the South Africans.  A dominating set piece, suffocating defence and two wingers with that little touch of magic to carve open a tiring opposition defence. That's a style that has also served Saracens so well for some years as one of the dominant forces in European rugby.  But this week saw the Londoners docked 35 league points having been found to have violated the English salary cap.

While Edinburgh are playing a wider game this season, it would be Springbok-style rugby that would win them this scrappy match against the game Dragons.

The match opened with a long period of play in Edinburgh's half after the Gunners had guddled the opening kick off.  Both sides probed with forward drives off nine and box kicks.  'Bing' Crosbie and Schoeman both turned over ball in defence as the Dragons started well, albeit somewhat laboured in attack.  Over the piece, this was to prove the pattern for the Newporters.  At times, they played with real ambition and enjoyed some promising line breaks.  But their execution so often let them down, as did Edinburgh's.

And on their first foray into the enemy 22, the Gunners' pack mauled the ball over for what they thought was a try, but referee Clancy had already told them to use it.

Their first try wasn't long in coming, though.  After Blairhorn knocked a penalty to touch in the corner, the pack tied the Dragons' defence in with a maul. Scott took the ball at first receiver and gave to Hickey in the second five-eighth slot.  The diminuitive Kiwi's long pass found his full back at pace and The King cruised past winger Jenkins to cross.  7-0 Edinburgh on 16 minutes.

There was no further score in the first half until injury time, when Hickey knocked over a penalty.  It was a moral victory for the Dragons, having defended their line under huge pressure, both from close in forward drives and when the Gunners moved the ball wide.  But one felt that this was the softening up process, the calm before the storm.  The Edinburgh pack looked totally dominant in the tight, while they were forcing the Welshmen to do a lot of work in defence.  That would surely tell in the final quarter.

Immediately after the restart, it looked like Matt Scott had scored a cracking try.  A set move off a lineout on the Dragons' 10 metre line saw the dynamic Willemse feed the speeding centre, bursting clean through the defence.  Unfortunately, the final pass was clearly forward and the home advantage remained at 10.

There then followed a madcap piece of play on 46 minutes, which ended with 'Big' Ben Toolis being carded for taking out Jordan Williams as he chased his own kick from a counter from his 22.  But Scott jackaled superbly to win a defensive penalty at the breakdown off the subsequent Newport attacking lineout. Then the Dragons came back in attack but rather got in their own way in the enemy red zone to give the Gunners another relieving penalty for crossing.

But it was short-handed Edinburgh who were on the attack next, pounding the Dragons' line.  While the visitors defended superbly, eventually their repeated infringements led to Keddie being carded.  This time, the Gunners decided to take the points.  Hickey duly scored his second penalty on 55 minutes to stretch their advantage further. 

Immediately afterwards, a brilliant try off set piece move from the Dragons saw Sam Davies release Adam Warren in space to score under the sticks. 13-7 Edinburgh going into the final quarter and this contest was by no means over as Coach Cockerill introduced Ritchie and Gilchrist to add fresh power up front.  With BBT's return from the bin, the Gunners had the man advantage.

And they duly took the benefit of the extra man on 63 minutes.  They built phases, then whipped the ball across, putting it through the hands to commit the defenders that were there and give Duhan van der Merwe a straightforward run in at the corner.  Hickey's excellent conversion from wide out made the score 20-7 and the hunt for the bonus was back on. But it was not to be.

With the clock ticking down, Schoeman grabbed a knock on from a Newport lineout and released the scooting Shiel, who danced through the defence and was scragged just short.  While the Gunners pounded the defence on their quest for another try, the Newporters again defended bravely, eventually forcing a Bradbury knock on as the big ball carrier looked like he had twisted over to touch down.

As this encounter rather fizzled out, Matt Scott picked up the Man of the Match award for a busy display in what was a workmanlike, if slightly underwhelming Edinburgh performance overall.  Ultimately, a lack of sharpness in handling cost them the tries that would have delivered the bonus.  The match ended with George Taylor losing the ball forward in a promising attack and Jenkins hacking along the wing, only for the ball to dribble into touch with a potential consolation try on the cards.  That summed up this tussle.