EDINBURGH made it three wins from three to move top of the Guinness Pro12 last night but they were made to work hard by an awkward Ospreys side missing a dozen players to World Cup duty.
Tries from stand-off Phil Burleigh and prop John Andress and a man-of-the-match display by goal-kicking full-back Greig Tonks helped secure a 20-9 victory on an evening devoid of thrills.
“There wasn’t much rugby in the first half,” admitted Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons after the game. “I must be honest I didn’t think they’d kick so much because normally they play. They kicked the cover off the ball and we made mistakes and gave away penalties. We turned it around in the second half and got the win but it wasn’t pretty.
“You’ve always got to give credit to your opposition, I thought the Ospreys defended well. The second half was pleasing because we turned it around in terms of territory and possession and we were well on top.”
It took 25 minutes for Edinburgh to make any serious inroads into the Ospreys half during a low-key opening which was characterised by scrappy play and punctuated by penalties, almost exclusively against the home side.
Sam Davies had hit the post with a 40-metre effort wide on the left in the third minute but Edinburgh infringed again while trying to mop up under the posts and the Ospreys was given a simpler chance to open the scoring. He missed again, falling short from a similar distance after a quarter of an hour, before doubling the lead two minutes later as the Edinburgh pack continued to get on the wrong side of Irish referee Andrew Brace.
If Edinburgh had failed to get going in that first quarter, then it was equally true that the Welsh side, shorn of a dozen front-line players to World Cup duty, were not exactly threatening to do much with the bulk of possession they enjoyed.
The last 15 minutes of a low-key half saw the home side finally get the bit between their teeth and start to bear down on the opposition line. The driving maul got going and the penalty count swung dramatically in the home side’s favour as the Welsh eight began to feel the heat. Scrums were opted for instead of shots at goal and the infringements kept coming, with the Edinburgh stalwarts on the touchline baying for a penalty try.
In the end there was no need for the ref’s assistance on that score as stand-off Phil Burleigh spotted a hole in the defence down the right channel and squeezed in at the corner, Tonks converting to give Edinburgh the lead.
However, just before half-time the home forwards leaked another penalty and Davies slotted left-footed from 40 metres wide on the right to give the visitors a two-point advantage at the break.
Tonks was quick to get Edinburgh’s noses back in front with a straight-forward penalty shortly after the resumption and stretched the lead out to four points in the 64th minute following a period of home pressure that was blunted by an inability to retain possession for long enough to turn the screw.
That changed as the game entered the final ten minutes as, finally, some sustained phase play had the Welsh rocking. Hamish Watson and Roddy Grant came close to conjuring an opening before prop John Andress finished off a forward drive for the relieving try, sub Jack Cuthbert adding the extras.
Edinburgh now have a week off before hosting Ulster in a fortnight and Solomons added: “We’ve won three of our competitive games on the bounce and winning generates confidence. Tonight we didn’t have our best game but we got the win and that’s important.”