Edinburgh staged a remarkable comeback to end their nine-game losing streak and inject a rare bit of joy into what has been a miserable season as they dramatically defeated the Dragons at Myreside.
Trailing by 20-3 with ten minutes left it looked like another depressing defeat was on the cards but they ran in three tries in the last eight minutes to stun the Welsh side, with captain Grant Gilchrist stretching over to score in the last move of the match.
“It’s nice to get one of these close ones to go our way,” said acting head coach Duncan Hodge. “It’s confidence we’ve been lacking, it’s not that we can’t do good things. Hopefully that gives us some.”
The match kicked off under overcast skies and, while hardly summery, in comparison to the previous five evenings Edinburgh have played at Myreside in the six-game trial period it felt practically tropical.
Against opposition who were on an even worse run, having lost ten on the trot in all competitions, Edinburgh started in positive fashion, winning a series of penalties and getting the ball through the hands, with a cute offload by No.8 Cornell du Preez almost putting wing Damien Hoyland in down the right.
Moments later another penalty was awarded and Jason Tovey opened the scoring.
The home side continued to dominate territory and possession for the first half hour but, against the run of play, they were stunned by a burst into life by the Welsh side who surged into attack and a slick backs move saw former Edinburgh centre Sam Beard slip wing Pat Howard in the corner and Angus O’Brien’s conversion made it 7-3 to the visitors.
A long-range penalty from O’Brien then added another three points to the Dragons’ ledger as Edinburgh continued their sorry habit of heading in at the interval with plenty of work to do.
Dragons started the second half stronger too as Edinburgh struggled to get a foothold back in the game.
The body blow came in the 49th minute when a piercing break by openside Nic Cudd had the home defence in sorts of trouble. The Welsh side patiently recycled then zipped the ball left and full-back Carl Meyer was there to finish off in the left-hand corner.
O’Brien brilliantly nailed the touchline conversion to put 14 points of daylight between the two teams.
Edinburgh responded immediately and set up an attacking position in the visiting 22 and won a penalty, which Tovey kicked to the corner. The home side pressed for the try they needed to re-ignite their hopes but centre Junior Rasolea knocked on in a tackle and the momentum was lost.
Ross Ford was on at hooker for George Turner but Edinburgh’s woes continued as they lost a scrum against the head as the game headed towards the final quarter.
Dragons continued to be more accurate and composed in possession but the match was in a real lull with little on show to entertain the sparse crowd.
Hoyland created a rare bit of magic when he stepped smartly and cut through the middle of the Dragons but he lost his footing as he tried to arc round the last line of defence and another chance was gone. The next appeared to have been snapped up as Edinburgh pressed again and created an overlap on the left which saw sub full-back Blair Kinghorn coast over. However, video replays revealed a barge at the ruck by Allan Dell which resulted in the home loosehead being yellow carded and the try being chalked off.
Another O’Brien penalty had nudged the Dragons further ahead but Edinburgh were given a lifeline in the 73rd minute when Dragons scrum-half Charlie Davies was sin-binned for a last ditch high tackle on Chris Dean and they made it count when Kinghorn crashed over. Tovey’s conversion cut the gap to seven and the home side sensed that may yet salvage something from the match, with a breakout from deep almost putting Rory Scholes in down the left but the wing was bundled into touch.
John Hardie, who had come off the bench to make his return from injury after the Dell carding, was the next to threaten before Hoyland made the breakthrough in the 79th minute. Tovey slotted the extras and it was the Welshman who slipped the defence and forced his old club into frantic defence.
Cudd was yellow carded but Edinburgh spurned the shot at goal for a draw and were rewarded when Gilchrist got over for a sensational finish.
There was bedlam in the Edinburgh support but celebrations were cut shot just as Tovery was to kick the conversion. The referee stopped him to check the try with the TMO. There was an agonising hush at Myreside but, to Edinburgh’s relief, the try was awarded and Tovey kicked the extras.
Edinburgh: Tries: Kinghorn, Hoyland, Gilchrist. Cons: Tovey 3. Pens: Tovey.
Dragons: Tries: Howard, Meyer. Cons: O’Brien 2. Pens: O’Brien 2.
Edinburgh: G Bryce, Hoyland, Dean, Rasolea, Scholes, Tovey, Fowles, Dell, Turner, Berghan, Gilchrist, B Toolis, Mata, Watson, Du Preez. Replacements: Kinghorn for Rasolea (61), Hidalgo-Clyne for Fowles (50), Hardie for Dell (76), Ford for Turner (55), McCallum for Mata (68). Not Used: K Bryce, McKenzie, Weir. Sin Bin: Dell (65).
Dragons: Meyer, Hughes, Beard, Dixon, Howard, O’Brien, C Davies, T Davies, T Thomas, B Harris, Screech, Hill, Evans, Cudd, Griffiths. Replacements: G Jones for Meyer (68), Mitchell for B Harris (66), Landman for Screech (66), Keddie for Evans (70). Not Used: Buckley, Price, Leonard, Prydie. Sin Bin: C Davies (72), Cudd (80).
Referee: Daniel Jones.