New signing Solomoni Rasolea came off the bench to spark life into Edinburgh but ultimately Newcastle Falcons proved too combative, winning 26-21 in this pre-season friendly at Murrayfield.
The fact that Edinburgh didn’t quite click as an attacking force until Rasolea entered the fray in the second half and started asking the visitors some tricky questions with his power, speed and agility will be a minor concern to head coach Alan Solomons, but he won’t really have expected a fully polished performance in this department so early in the season – especially as so many of his frontline players were getting their first run-out of the season after being rested during last week’s loss to Sale at Heywood Road.
Of far greater concern will be the ease with which Newcastle opened Edinburgh up for their first three tries, and he will be pretty hacked off that after Duncan Weir had edged Edinburgh into the lead for the first time in the match in the 63rd minute, his team then allowed their opponents to dominate most of the final quarter before Callum Chick rumbled over from close range to secure the win at the death.
This was a friendly aimed at getting players battle fit so a loss in itself is nothing to lose sleep over, and the raft of changes made in that final period undoubtedly disrupted Edinburgh’s shape and rhythm, but after the miserable end we witnessed to last season there should surely have been some more desire evident to secure a morale-boosting win.
“I thought we lacked line speed so that made a huge difference to us and we slipped tackles so our defence wasn’t good enough, and our line-out didn’t function effectively, but we’ve got to be fair and some guys haven’t played for a long time like Fraser McKenzie who missed last season from November and Grant Gilchrist was playing his second game in two years,” said Solomons.
“Both these games were really good for us in terms of preparation. We got a lot out of them,” he added.
The Falcons raced into an early lead when the Edinburgh defence opened up right in front of the posts for Chris Harris to stroll over the line in near perfect isolation.
It was a worryingly easy score, but Edinburgh didn’t let it shake them, and they were soon back on even terms when Weir’s long looping pass to Hamish Watson found men over on the left touchline, and the flanker’s neat flip back inside set up the try for Stuart McInally.
Edinburgh continued to dominate territory and possession through the remainder of the first half without turning pressure into points, and they paid the price on the stroke of half-time when Newcastle finally got their hands on the ball for more than just a handful of phases. Evan Olmstead, Newcastle’s magnificently hirsute Canadian flanker, who was loitering in his usual slot on the left touchline, suddenly found himself charging clear to score his team’s second touch-down.
Replacement winger Zak Kibirige extended Newcastle’s lead with his first touch of the ball in the 43rd minute. Once again, Edinburgh’s defence had been torn open with alarming ease, which has got to be a major concern ahead of the start of real hostilities away to Cardiff in six days’ time.
Rasolea, a summer signing from Western Force, gave an indication of the damage he might do if given the time and space to express himself by dancing through a crowd of tacklers to pull the score back to just five points.
The former Australian Sevens star was at it again with a change of pace which evaded his tackler, with John Hardie popping up on his shoulder to keep the move going, before Weir finished it off – the stand-off giving himself an easy conversion from directly in front of the posts.
Edinburgh: Try: McInally, Rasolea, Weir; Con: Weir 3.
Newcastle: Try: Harris, Olmstead, Kibirige, Chick; Con: Delany 2, Hodgson.
Edinburgh: G Bryce; T Brown, S Tofilau, P Burleigh (S Rasolea 40), R Scholes; D Weir (B Kinghorn 72), S Hidalgo-Clyne (N Fowles 56); R Sutherland (J Cosgrove 58), R Ford (McInally 7-17 & 40; G Turner 72), W Nel (S Berghan 40), F McKenzie (B Toolis 58), G Gilchrist, J Ritchie(V Fihaki 51) H Watson (J Hardie 40-65), M Bradbury.
Newcastle: S Hammersley (J Hodgson 55); V Goneva, C Harris, J Socino, S Sinoti (Z Kibirige 40); M Delany, S Takalua; J Welsh (P Ryan 60), S Lawson (B Sowrey 50), T Vea(A Rogers 40), C Green, W Witty, E Olmstead, W Welch (T Holmes 50-60, Nick Civetta 60), M Wilson.
Referee: Graeme Wells