Laidlaw’s late penalty gives Bradley and fans a ‘bonus’

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Edinburgh capped their first home game of the season with a 20-17 victory over Newcastle Falcons in a disjointed affair at Murrayfield.

The result handed new head coach Michael Bradley a first win at the home of Scottish rugby, and he was pleased with the result, praising the home fans. “The win was a bonus for us and the supporters were great tonight. The stadium was looking great and the atmosphere was superb. But for us, our standards dropped a bit from last week.”

It was clear that Newcastle had come to play, with fly-half Jimmy Gopperth passing up two early kickable penalties before finally opting to aim at the posts, however his effort rebounded off the upright.

Fittingly it was Phil Godman, making his first start in almost a year after spending the majority of last season on the sidelines with a cruciate ligament injury, who earned his side the opening points, slotting a penalty from 30 metres.

Gopperth soon levelled things up though, making amends for his earlier wastefulness, splitting the uprights with his penalty attempt.

With points finally on the scoreboard, the Newcastle backline appeared to settle into the game, and a typically quick move resulted in Jim Thompson being sent to the sin bin, the home centre adjudged to have been offside as he made a try-saving interception. In keeping with their earlier thinking, the Falcons elected to scrum, and their decision was vindicated when centre Luke Eves brushed aside a loose tackle to bundle over from close range, Gopperth adding the extras.

On the stroke of half-time, parity was restored when captain Greig Laidlaw touched down after good link play from both Godman and full-back Tom Brown. Godman made no mistake with the conversion.

A raft of changes were introduced at the break, and as a result all sense of fluidity was lost. The scoreboard remained untroubled until the beginning of the final quarter when an intelligent kick through from Falcons’ centre James Fitzpatrick allowed Luke Fielden to dive over for a score converted by replacement Joel Hodgson.

Yet with 15 minutes remaining, the scores were level once more, Laidlaw again proving to be the catalyst, his quick lineout and offload releasing substitute Tim Visser. The ball then passed through the hands of Laidlaw and Hamish Watson, giving replacement hooker Steven Lawrie sufficient room to canter over. Laidlaw slotted the conversion.

A further wave of changes led to further stagnation on the field, yet a late penalty from man of the match Laidlaw ensured Bradley earned a victory in his first home game at the helm, yet he admitted there is still room for improvement, saying: “We maybe played a bit too much rugby, but again, we highlighted Edinburgh’s capacity to score tries out of nothing which is exceptional. We just have to maintain that throughout the whole game.”