Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons praised the courage of his men after they extended their winning run to four league games – six matches in all this season after successes in two pre-season encounters – when they saw off Ulster 16-10 in the Guinness PRO12 fixture at BT Murrayfield on Friday night.
Despite the win in a tense encounter that hung in the balance until the final whistle, the Capital outfit actually slipped a place in the league table after again missing out on a bonus point.
However, that was not an issue for a delighted Solomons who preferred to focus on a gutsy effort by his players.
“I thought it was a courageous performance by us. I thought the boys did fantastically. To me that just showed character,” he said. “We made things difficult for ourselves with the number of errors we made. But I thought on balance, on the night, we deserved the win.”
The hosts were forced into a late reshuffle when Rory Sutherland was called into the Scotland squad as cover for the injured Ryan Grant, then lost replacement scrum half Sean Kennedy during the warm up – Murdo McAndrew taking his place on the bench.
However, Dell’s contribution lasted only 11 minutes before he was withdrawn after a head knock, with Grant Shiells taking over. Shiells was also forced to withdraw from proceedings with 12 minutes to play.
The Capital struck after four minutes when Greig Tonks was on target with a sweetly-struck penalty.
Winger Tom Brown was looking lively, with a couple of important contributions early in the proceedings with hosts on top. And the pressure paid off in 18 minutes when Tonks landed his second penalty of the evening.
Ulster trimmed the deficit with a penalty by Peter Nelson and enjoyed a spell in the ascendancy. But a solid defensive effort by the home side repelled a series of attacks and prevented any further scoring before the end of a keenly contested first half.
The visitors were first to strike in the second period. Four minutes after the restart, a chip ahead by Phil Burleigh was gathered by Paul Marshall who clipped the all over the defence and regathered, sparking a wave of phases that ended with Sean Reidy diving in at the corner for a try, which Nelson converted.
That piqued the home side into offensive action and the response came in 55 minutes when Hamish Watson – an outstanding contributor and worthy man of the match – sparked a move just inside his own half with a long pass and, after the ball had passed through two pairs of hands, the flanker was on the shoulder of Nasi Manu to take the return and sprint over.
Tonks was on target with the conversion to restore a three-point advantage which was still in place entering the final quarter.
Tonks continued his fine form with the boot, banging over his third penalty of the night with 15 minutes left to play.
However, he was short with his next effort leaving the game finely poised with ten minutes to play.
With two minutes remaining on the clock, Ulster mounted a final desperate attempt to snatch the victory.
A heroic defensive effort repelled the Irishmen but the match had one final twist and the visitors were awarded a penalty with ten seconds left on the clock. That was despatched into touch but once again, the home defence held firm to seal the victory.
“We stemmed them all evening so there was no reason for us not to do it – and we did it”, added Solomons.
Edinburgh: Try – Watson; Con – Tonks; Pens – Tonks (3).
Ulster: Try – Reidy; Con – Nelson; Pen – Nelson.
Edinburgh G Tonks, T Brown, C Dean (W Helu 40), A Strauss, D Hoyland, P Burleigh, N Fowles, A Dell (S Berghan 65 , N Cochrane, A Dell (G Shiells 11 (G Turner 68)), A Bresler, F McKenzie, M Coman (C Du Preez 55), H Watson, N Manu.
Ulster L Ludik (I Humphreys 59), C Gilroy, S Arnold, S McCloskey, A Trimble, P Nelson, P Marshall, C Black (A Warwick 56), R Herring, W Herbst (B Ross 56), D Tuohy (L Stevenson 35), F van der Merwe, R Wilson (W Faloon 52), S Reidy, N Williams
Referee: D Phillips (IRFU)