Edinburgh 34 Dragons 17: Cockerill’s men dig deep as they claim win bonus

Edinburgh's James Johnstone scores his second try of the match
Edinburgh's James Johnstone scores his second try of the match
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After their loss to the Southern Kings last time out it was vital for Edinburgh’s league position and peace of mind that they got back to winning ways tonight at BT Murrayfield.

They did so but the manner of the victory was a little scrappy, especially in the middle of the match. The Welsh visitors caused plenty of problems after enjoying a half-time lead.

It was only in the fourth quarter that Edinburgh made this one safe, thanks to two tries in the space of just five minutes, the second of which secured the bonus, before a fifth followed at the death.

The good news for Scotland is that Magnus Bradbury looked none the worse for his long injury lay-off. The burly flanker carried with great conviction, he made several trademark thumping tackles and scored an important second-half try. He also walked away with the man-of-the-match award.

He might struggle to last 80 minutes in Paris but given his long injury list Gregor Townsend will be tempted to park him on the bench.

Darcy Graham looked lively, involved in both of the opening scores and he broke the line twice in quick succession just after the break. James Johnstone continues to grow into the thirteen shirt with two tries in the opening 15 minutes although he sadly wasn’t able to maintain that strike rate.

It is possible that Edinburgh under-estimated the visitors who looked much better than their results would indicate so far this season.

Edinburgh were turned over in several promising situations, too many passes went astray and their fearsome mauling game couldn’t get out of first gear. The scrums were dominant, the lineouts wayward and Henry Pyrgos’ service is a little laboured.

The opening quarter saw four quickfire tries, two apiece. Every time Edinburgh touched down, the Dragons did the same and if 13 is supposed to be unlucky for some the twin outside centres filled their boots last night, both men grabbing a brace apiece inside the opening quarter.

Edinburgh got the board rolling after just eight minutes. From an attacking lineout Chris Dean found a huge hole in the No.10 channel, Graham carried straight and one phase later Johnstone got outside his marker before cutting back inside two more Dragon defenders to score a beauty.

It wasn’t long before the same players again combined to good effect, this time from a set scrum. Edinburgh attacked left, the ball went inside to Graham who came off his wing in a prepared move and then out again to Johnstone who had the relatively simple task of touching down for his second score.

Anything you can do...

Each time Johnstone scored for Edinburgh Tyler Morgan, his opposite number, did the same for the visitors. The Dragons got high field position thanks to a Bill Mata knock-on, a rare occurrence, and they made good use of it, full-back Jordan Williams sucking in two defenders to leave Morgan unmarked on the left wing.

The centre’s second score was much simpler. Edinburgh were throwing the ball wide like Warrior wannabees and Morgan picked off a 
pass and strolled in from 40 yards.

A Dragons penalty on 25 minutes was all that separated the teams at half-time although fly-half Josh Lewis made a terrible hash of another effort early in the second half. Instead it was Jaco van der Walt who levelled the scores on 55 minutes with Edinburgh’s first three-pointer.

Eventually a penalty bought Edinburgh some field position, the big men picked and drove at the Dragons defence and 
eventually Bradbury barrelled his way over from short range to grab back the lead on 63 
minutes.

Five minutes later and Duhan van der Merwe had banked the bonus-point try but only after the big Saffa had finished superbly from distance after being tackled and jumping back to his feet.

Having finally put some space between them and the visitors, Edinburgh looked happy to run down the clock but Van der Merwe grabbed his second, the team’s fifth, at the death to crown a satisfactory evening at the office.

In other results which effect Conference B, Munster defeated Southern Kings 43-0, and Ospreys lost 8-0 at home to Ulster.

Edinburgh: Try: Johnstone (2), Bradbury, Van der Merwe (2) Conv: Van der Walt (3) Pen: Van der Walt.

Dragons: Try: Tyler Morgan (2) Conv: Lewis (2) Pen: Lewis.

Edinburgh: Fife; Graham, Johnstone, Dean (Socino 75), Van der Merwe; Van der Walt, Pyrgos (Capt); Schoeman (Sutherland 75), Ford (Cherry 55), Ceccarelli (McCallum 64), McKenzie (Hunter-Hill 70), Toolis, Bradbury, Crosbie, Mata (Miller 75).

Dragons: J Williams (Kirchner 72); Rosser, Morgan, Sage (Henson 56), Talbot-Davies; Lewis, R Williams, Harris (Fawcett 64), Hibbard (Capt)(Lawrence 72), Fairbrother, Davies (Evans 45), Screech, Keddie, Griffiths, Benjamin (Basham 67).

Referee: Andrew Brace (RFU).

Attendance: 4,584.