Agony on the road for the Dragons
EDINBURGH 16 DRAGONS 13
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons suffered last-gasp heartbreak at Murrayfield with Edinburgh taking the spoils with the last kick.
Home fly-half Harry Leonard slotted over a simple penalty from slap bang in front of the sticks for a 16-13 RaboDirect Pro12 win after the Dragons scrum had been shunted backwards.
It was cruel luck on the Rodney Parade region, who looked set for a share of the spoils after fighting back from 13-3 down early in the second half.
Replacement fly-half Kris Burton went from hero to villain, nailing a late penalty before gifting Edinburgh their last chance by kicking a restart dead from the 22.
The Dragons had to settle for a losing bonus point rather than the two they would have earned for a draw and they deserved something for their efforts.
Just like against Ulster on opening day, they failed to really shine in attack but showed plenty of spirit in defence, with Netani Talei to the fore.
The Fijian back row forward was inspired against his former side, smashing his pals backwards when both tackling and surging forward.
But, alas, he wasn’t to get the happy homecoming he wanted.
The Dragons have never won their first two games of the season and triumphed on their travels just once in the league last season – a nervy success against hapless Zebre.
But they headed north full of beans after their opening day victory against Ulster, a win that was earned by a determined defensive effort and fly-half Jason Tovey’s left boot.
The management team kept changes to a minimum following that fine start but he did decide to bring in the ball-carrying skills of Talei, ably backed up by Lions star Toby Faletau on the bench.
And the Wales back row forward was swiftly called into action when a 10th-minute injury to Nic Cudd forced a back row reshuffle with Talei going to six and Lewis Evans to seven.
That was one of few incidents of note in a start that was almost as quiet as the 3,692-strong crowd in the vast surroundings of Murrayfield.
Tovey and opposite number Harry Leonard traded penalties before Edinburgh were the first to put any real pressure on as the clock approached 20 minutes.
Just like against Bath and Ulster, the Dragons’ lineout defence was creaking and it was with some relief that the hosts eventually settled for another Leonard three-pointer.
The visitors had created nothing in attack but, in fairness, neither had Edinburgh.
Finally there was a spark on the half hour when Dragons scrum-half Richie Rees gained 40 metres with a sharp break from a quick tap but the move came to nothing when the ball went to ground off full-back Dan Evans’ fingertips 10 metres out.
That was as good as it got for the Rodney Parade region, who would have been pretty pleased to only be 6-3 down at the break.
Edinburgh one polished passage of play of the half was ended when they were pinged for crossing in midfield and then they made a daft decision to go for a scrum rather than three points on the stroke of half-time.
The Dragons had seen Lewis Evans sin-binned for not rolling away but managed to escape when Irish referee Dudley Phillips spotted an infringement by home tighthead Willem Nel.
Nonetheless, the visitors were a man down in the opening exchanges of the second half and it was one-way traffic.
Edinburgh botched a host of golden chances but eventually got their reward when Scotland wing Tim Visser was put over down by number eight David Denton with Leonard expertly adding the extras for a pretty good 13-3 lead.
But they didn’t hold that buffer for long with the Dragons reaping the rewards of a brave call.
Rather than chip away at the lead through Tovey’s boot they opted to go for the corner with a penalty and they got seven points rather than three, Rees sniping over and the fly-half converting.
Suddenly it was a nip and tuck game with the Dragons calling Kris Burton from the bench in the final quarter to try and steer them to victory.
First job was to get the visitors level and he did that with five minutes left, nervelessly punishing a breakdown offence that infuriated the Edinburgh coaching team to make it 13-13.
Unfortunately, Burton’s right boot proved to be too strong at the death, clearing the touchline with a restart when he was aiming to pin Edinburgh deep. It was a costly error.
Edinburgh: G Tonks, N Walker, D Fife, N De Luca, T Visser, H Leonard, S Kennedy (S Hidalgo-Clyne 62), A Dickinson (W Blaauw 65), R Ford (captain), W Nel, G Gilchrist, I van der Westhuizen, D Basilaia (S Cox 40, H Watson 54), R Grant, D Denton.
Scorers: tries – T Visser; conversion – H Leonard; penalties – H Leonard (3)
Dragons: D Evans, M Pewtner, P Leach, J Dixon, H Amos, J Tovey (K Burton 62), R Rees (J Evans 64), O Evans (P Price 45), R Thomas (captain), D Way (F Chaparro 45), A Jones, M Screech, L Evans, N Cudd (T Faletau 9), N Talei.
Scorers: tries – R Rees; conversion – J Tovey; penalties – J Tovey, K Burton
Referee: Dudley Phillips (Ireland)
Argus star man: Netani Talei
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