Edinburgh moved to the top of Champions Cup pool five last night with the bonus point victory that was the least they expected on discovering they were facing Newcastle’s second string, but on a grim night in the capital they made suitably heavy weather of it.
Coach Richard Cockerill has repeatedly indicated that his priority is always the result however, so while he knows his men will meet much stronger opposition in next weekend’s return leg, he was satisfied with the outcome.
“It was a good win. It was a one off game with the circumstances around the team they picked and the issues around their front-row. You’ve got to take what you can and we did, but we know next week will be different,” he said..
“Dean’s pretty smart, he puts it out there, ‘is it going to be contested or uncontested scrums?’ so I think that played on our minds a little bit and we looked a little bit rusty in the first half and it was a miserable old night, so it was the night for the underdog, but they took a similar team to Tolulon and got a result. So it was a good five points, we won’t get carried away. We’re halfway through and wew have to win away from home if we’re going to qualify, which is the one thing we haven’t done this year.”
The pre-match talk had been dominated by Newcastle’s personnel problems, with injuries affecting their selections all over the pitch and so serious at prop that they had only seven players on their bench, leaving their director of rugby Dean Richards infuriated by the lack of flexibility shown by tournament organisers in refusing to let him register an additional prop.Edinburgh made a sloppy start, though, characterised by the James Johnstone knock on under little pressure in midfield that let Newcastle shift play deep into their 22 and the Pierre Schoeman infringement soon after that let Brett Connon open the scoring for the visitors.
That could have been cancelled out soon after when Hamish Watson’s scavenging earned them a penalty just outside the opposition 22, but they opted to kick to touch instead of at goal and lost the ball at the lineout. The decision had, though, seemed indicative of their mindset, this match representing a chance to secure a four try bonus point win even in treacherous conditions and they registered their first a quarter of an hour into proceedings when they earned another chance to set up a lineout drive in their opponents’ 22 and this time got it right. It was far from dynamic stuff as they gradually ground down the defence, picking and driving methodically, initially crabbing across the pitch, then starting to make ground, before Henry Pyrgos eventually adjudged the time to be right to release the ball to Hamish Watson who barrelled over from close range.
The first priority was to win, however and, for all that they were dominating possession with Bill Mata once again offering an impressive lead, that looked by no means certain when Newcastle reclaimed the lead, working their way into the home team’s half on a rare attack and creating an overlap which saw Pedro Bettencourt send Adam Radwan clear.
When Edinburgh finally exploited their obvious advantage in the scrum, earning a penalty just outside their 22, they opted this time to kick at goal, only for van der Walt’s kick to rebound the wrong way off the post this time. Little winger Darcy Graham managed to get in and steal the ball at the next breakdown and when another penalty was then earned under the posts, the stand off levelled the scores, but Connon nudged his side back in front with a second penalty strike just before the interval.
Edinburgh reasserted themselves soon after it with a try that was similar in conception to the first, Pyrgos this time inviting Chris Dean to apply the finish. They were then given a chance to impose their superiority in the other setpiece discipline at a close range scrum and took full advantage, the second penalty Newcastle conceded punished with a penalty try. Darcy Graham looked to have secured the bonus point when he and got to the line soon after, but replays showed his knee hitting the touchline just before he touched down in opposite number Tom Arscott’s tackle. There was a nervous moment for Edinburgh when Newcastle flier Radwan raced into space, replacement hooker Dave Cherry saving the day with a vital cover tackle to preserve the two score cushion.
The bonus point was finally secured, though, with a move started and finished by Kinghorn, the full-back fielding a kick inside his own half, close to the left touch-line and running infield where Mata having carried tirelessly throughout, instead off-loaded cleverly this time to release van der Walt. The stand off showed a good turn of pace to gain ground down the right, before deftly chipping the ball ahead for the now supporting Kinghorn to run onto and gather as he slid across the try line.
Source : HeraldScotland