Alan Solomons celebrated Edinburgh’s first RaboDirect PRO12 victory on the road this season and paid tribute to his side’s character.
Defeat in Treviso on Saturday left the Capital side nursing a fifth defeat in their last six games. A quick turnaround and a trip to south Wales was hardly the perfect follow-up to what was arguably, the side’s most chastening defeat of the season.
Still, after going behind to the boot of Dragons’ outside half Jason Tovey, Edinburgh recovered their poise and ran out deserved 23-19 winners – if only just – at a soggy Newport last night.
Willem Nel and Matt Scott crossed the whitewash and full-back Jack Cuthbert added 13 points with the boot. A job well done and a genuine shot in the arm for Solomons, whose side are still chasing a top-six finish which, in all probability, will be needed to secure European Cup rugby next season.
“We went to Treviso at the weekend and the guys are not used to those conditions,” said Solomons.
“It took us a day to get there and a whole day, on Sunday, to get back. We left Italy at 10.45 in the morning and we got into Edinburgh at 7.15pm.
“We were back travelling again [to Newport], so to come out here and to win the game is a fantastic achievement.
“I thought everyone did exceptionally well and I thought [captain] Mike Coman led the side exceptionally well too.
“It was our first victory on the road in the Rabo, but we did get one in Europe against Gloucester. Funnily enough, against Gloucester away, Jack Cuthbert took on the kicking duties and kicked like a dream. And he did the same tonight.”
For the first 20 minutes of a game that was spoiled by the conditions, Edinburgh struggled to get a foothold. They were a Hallam Amos fumble away from conceding a seventh-minute try and soon fell behind to Jason Tovey’s first of four successful penalties.
The gifted pivot added a second after Cuthbert’s one and only miss and showed terrific control with ball in hand.
An Edinburgh victory, at that juncture, looked as likely as a top-six finish. However, in the seven minutes prior to half-time, Cuthbert and Tovey exchanged penalties and Nel barged his way over after Edinburgh’s first sustained period of pressure in the Dragons’ 22.
Solomons added: “It was a difficult start. All the 50-50 balls on the ground went their way and we gave away a few penalties.
“They kept us in our half, but we defended well and at half-time we made the point that they had thrown everything at us, yet we were 10-9 to the good.
“So, we said that it was ours for the taking as long as we went out and put in a big 40 minutes. That’s what we did.
“It’s vital for us to finish the season well and to try and finish in the top six.
“What pleased me was the way we took our chances tonight. It’s what we didn’t do at Treviso at the weekend.
“When we spoke about the Treviso game on Monday, we talked about how we had given up six really good try-scoring opportunities. We created the chances and we butchered them. We made the point that we couldn’t afford to do that again.
“What impressed me most about the side was that we had huge pressure on us tonight, yet we came out and handled the pressure. It’s about character and we showed that tonight.”
Tovey’s fourth penalty, eight minutes into the second half, restored the Dragons’ lead, but after the most enterprising move of the game, Edinburgh were back in front courtesy of Scott’s touchdown and Cuthbert’s conversion.
“It was a crucial time to score and it was a good try too,” said Solomons.
Cuthbert, the former Bath full-back, added two further penalties to keep the Dragons at arm’s length and though replacement Ross Wardle crossed for a 73rd minute try whilst Izak van der Westhuizen was in the sin bin, Edinburgh held on for an important victory.
Dragons: Try – Wardle. Conversion –Tovey. Penalties – Tovey (4)
Edinburgh: Tries - Nel, Scott. Conversions – Cuthbert (2). Penalties – Cuthbert (3)
Dragons: D Evans (W Harries 65); T Prydie, P Leach, J Dixon (R Wardle 70), H Amos; J Tovey, R Rees (W Evans 66); P Price, E Dee (S Parry 66), D Bell (B Douglas 66), M Screech (C Hill 64), A Coombs (capt), J Groves (N Talei 70), L Evans, T Faletau
Edinburgh: J Cuthbert; S Hidalgo-Clyne, M Scott, A Strauss (C Bezuidenhout 65), T Brown; H Leonard, G Hart (S Kennedy 71); A Dickinson, R Ford (J Hilterbrand 19), W Nel, G Gilchrist, I van der Westhuizen, M Coman (capt), C du Preez, D Denton
Referee: L Colgan (Ireland)