Hamish Watson believes his Edinburgh Rugby side are learning the knack of pulling out a win when not firing on all cylinders.
The tearaway flanker, whose man-of-the-match performance was to earn a comparison with All Black legend Richie McCaw, acknowledged that a 24-10 success at home to Newport Gwent Dragons owed more to grit than guile at times.
“We should have been a bit more up at half-time (6-0) but the win was the most important thing. We could have scored more tries.”
If the rest of the side had been turning on the style like Watson then Edinburgh would have a better record than two wins and a draw from six starts.
Watson was unlucky to be denied his second try of the season by the video ref and his footballing skills, after Greig Tonks had launched a counter attack, came close to setting up a touchdown for Tim Visser, the winger being unable to control an awkward bounce when over the line.
Visser paid tribute to his young colleague who seems well on course for a place in the Scotland squad this Autumn, remarking: “It’s good to know if you can’t finish something yourself then there is every chance Hamish will be on your shoulder in support. Hamish has a massive engine to get himself around the pitch.
“He’s very physical especially for his size. If you look at Richie McCaw getting round the pitch you could almost compare Hamish to that.”
A relieved Edinburgh coach, Alan Solomons, agreed that Watson had been influential on a day when Edinburgh had a third “try” disallowed near the end for offside in the build-up.
Said Solomons: “Hamish has played terrifically well. He couldn’t have played last week because of an injured wrist but I’d have rested him anyway because he gives absolutely everything week in, week out.”
“He has got to stay between 85 and 100 per cent every time but he has a lot of pace and good hands. He’s a tough kid with a good work ethic.”
Talking of toughness, Solomons, for the first time, gave a glimpse of the pressure that had been building as he oozed relief at this success.
Admitting thicker skins have had to be grown, he said: “It’s been tough for them (the players) and what has carried them through has been their character and the morale in the side.
“Obvously the knocks they got from outside the group knocks the confidence. The players have had to grow a thicker skin.
“For me it is easier because I have a lot more experience. For them it has been hard. I’ve got to guide them through this passage but you come out much tougher. Tough times don’t last , tough people do.”
Nobody could deny Edinburgh deserved the win with centre Sam Beard in fine form particularly when laying on a comeback try for Dougie Fife with a long cut-out pass to the wing. But it would be foolish to get carried away for Dragons were a modest opponent and the try conceded by the home side just after the interval was the stuff of nightmares as Matthew Pewtner rode two seemingly half-hearted tackles.
Until then Edinburgh had relied on Tom Heathcote’s kicking – the stand off ended with 16 points to take his season’s tally to 49 – and Watson acknowledged defences need tightening.
“It was a bit annoying to concede the try we did but we did play some good stuff too.”
Indeed, a bonus point was there for the taking only for Edinburgh to come up short and, to be fair, Dragons did raise the game late on. But at least Edinburgh have a springboard into Friday’s opening European Challenge Cup tie at Bordeaux-Begles even if back row Cornell Du Preez looks to be a long-term casualty after being stretched off with a suspected broken ankle.
Watson, one of the players who will have to pick up the slack created by Du Preez’s absence, admitted: “Bordeaux-Begles beat Clermont 51-21 last week. It’s going to be tough but our target is to get out of the group stage.”
Also, there was a reminder of just what Edinburgh are capable of with yet another Visser try when he charged down a clearance and grabbed the bounce. That was the prolific Visser’s 54th touchdown at league level and for a couple of hours moved him closer to Tommy Bowe at the top of the all-time Pro12 scoring charts before the Ulsterman restored a three-try gap by crossing in a win against Glasgow, also on Saturday, to inflict a first defeat on Warriors this term.
Edinburgh: Tries – Visser, Fife. Conversion – Heathcote. Penalties – Heathcote (4).
Dragons: Try – Pewtner. Conversion – Tovey. Penalty – O’Brien.
Edinburgh: G Tonks, D Fife, S Beard, A Strauss, T Visser (J Cuthbert 77), T Heathcote, S Kennedy (S Hidalgo-Clyne 69), A Dickinson, R Ford, J Andress (WP Nel 40), A Bresler, G Gilchrist, M Coman (captain), H Watson, C Du Preez (T Leonardi 26, WP Nel 30-40).
Dragons: L Byrne (captain), M Pewtner, T Prydie, A Smith (A O’Brien 26), H Amos, J Tovey (A Brew 56), J Evans (R Rees 64), B Stankovich (L Fairbrother 70), E Dee (R Thomas 56), D Way, A Coombs, R Landman (J Thomas 40), L Evans, N Cudd, A Powell (H Gustafson 30-40).
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland).