Head coach Richard Cockerill declared himself “delighted” as Edinburgh completed their pre-season programme with a win over Newcastle Falcons at the Greenyards last night.
However, the Englishman was clear that the proof will be in the pudding when the Guinness Pro14 season starts on Friday, with a trip to Cardiff opening things up for the Capital team.
“It was a better performance than last week,” said Cockerill after the 14-10 win over the Aviva Premiership side. “We probably deserved to win. So, I’m delighted, as one thing this team has been very good at is throwing away a lead. It’s nice to have the reward for the hard work the lads put in.
“But it’s a pre-season game so it’s a step on the way. We won’t be celebrating too much.
“We played a bit better. The challenge to the players was to match the intensity of last week and I thought they did that. Newcastle are a good side. We stayed in the battle and defended for our lives. If our execution had been a little better we probably could have scored two in the first half and the same in the second.”
Edinburgh’s only try came from Jason Harries – the Welsh wing who has signed from London Scottish and impressed in last week’s 24-20 loss to Sale Sharks.
The match between the cross-border rivals, who finished ninth in the Pro12 and eighth in the Aviva Premiership, was watched by a crowd of 2354 in the Borders, including Scotland coach Gregor Townsend.
Front-line Test players who played a significant part in the summer tour such as Ross Ford, Hamish Watson, WP Nel, Damien Hoyland and Ben Toolis, continued to be rested but Cockerill said he would be comfortable bringing them back for next week’s opener at the Arms Park.
“We are looking after those Test guys. They’ve had a long season last year, they’ve been on tour,” said the coach. “So they’ve had their six-week stand-down but they’ve been training hard with us.
“There’s a lot of guys who have put their hands up for selection [the past couple of weeks]. So we’ll pick a side for Cardiff we think can do a job.”
Stand-off Duncan Weir opened the scoring with a routine penalty after a Newcastle offside and then came closest to getting the first try of the evening when he jinked towards the line down the right but lost control of the ball and failed to get it to ground.
After 20 minutes, former Scotland and British Lions loosehead Ryan Grant, who has been training with Edinburgh for the last couple of weeks, was introduced after Darryl Marfo left the field with what appeared to be a head knock.
It was Grant’s first appearance in an Edinburgh jersey for seven years after he left the to join Glasgow Warriors. He spent the past six months of last season at Worcester.
Weir doubled his account and the lead as he slotted a penalty close to the half-hour mark.
Towards the end of what had been an hitherto low-key opening half of classic pre-season fare, Edinburgh put together their best sustained set of phases. They worked their way to the English side’s line but Jamie Ritchie was held up and referee Mike Adamson blew for half-time. Both sides began the expected process of steadily emptying the benches as the second half got under way, with notable Edinburgh introductions including Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, John Hardie and Cornell du Preez.
It remained a cagey affair in the early stages but Newcastle were coming more into it and got their reward when full-back Simon Hammersley was put in the left corner in the 52nd minute. Toby Flood’s touchline conversion came back off the post to ensure Edinburgh remained a point ahead.
That was stretched out to four when Jason Tovey, on for Weir, took on the goalkicking duties and slotted a penalty from 35 metres.
It was the stand-off who then carved out a glorious chance for Edinburgh as his deft chip in the 22 just evaded the grasp of onrushing centre Junior Rasolea.
It was another Welshman, the new man Harries, who did finally get over the line after a glorious long pass from Hidalgo-Clyne gave him a free run in down the left. Tovey was just wide with the conversion but the ‘home’ side were now more than a converted score clear at 14-5.
Falcons did get a try back, as replacement hooker Santiago Socino was driven over in the corner from a lineout drive. Joel Hodgson was wayward with the conversion and Edinburgh saw out the closing two minutes.