Dragons v Edinburgh: Puma power fuels visitors’ victory

Hoyland gets bonus-point try at the death after Boffelli and Moyano claim three in first half

Damien Hoyland
Damien Hoyland has extended his stay with Edinburgh by signing a new contract. Image: ©Craig Watson.

Dragons 14

Edinburgh 30

EDINBURGH made it four wins from six starts in the URC last night, but after a spectacular opening spell they had to dig deep before securing a bonus-point victory that keeps them in touch towards the top of the table.

They threatened to overrun the Dragons in the first half at Rodney Parade, as Emiliano Boffelli scored just two minutes into his debut and his fellow-Pumas international Ramiro Moyano touched down twice. But in between Moyano’s two scores the home team fought back, and they must have fancied their chances in the second half after going in at the break just three points behind.

In the second half, however, Mike Blair’s side showed there is more than one way to skin a Dragon, playing a tighter game but still retaining the upper hand. Two penalties from Blair Kinghorn all but secured the victory with time running out, then in the 80th minute Damien Hoyland claimed the bonus-point try. 


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It was a performance that had its ups and downs, but it was thoroughly entertaining at times, and provided further evidence that this team are maturing quickly. It was all the more impressive given Blair had rested Pierre Schoeman, Hamish Watson, Jamie Ritchie and Darcy Graham, and the head coach was understandably pleased with the evening’s work – especially given the adverse conditions. 

“That was genuinely one of the worst winds in a game I’ve ever been involved in,” Blair said. “It was so strong, blowing all over the pitch.

“We wanted to play with tempo and keep hold of the ball, rather than just giving it back to the Dragons. That was backed up by energy and physicality. So I was really pleased.”

As for the two Pumas, Blair was delighted by how well they had gelled, and is confident that Boffelli – who only joined up with his new team-mates on Monday – will be a major asset to the team.  “I deliberately paired them and selected them together,” he added.  “I felt that would be important for them in terms of communication.

“The pair of them were outstanding and deserved their tries. There’s a lot more to come from Emiliano especially, as he only joined the group earlier this week.”

Edinburgh were pinned back in their own half for the first couple of minutes, but they worked patiently in search of an opening. A kick through by James Lang was blocked, but the centre had highlighted a gap in the home defence, and a minute later Boffelli exploited it. Nick Haining made the half-break in midfield, and the full-back kicked ahead then put in another shorter kick before touching down. Kinghorn converted.

Having gone ahead on the scoreboard, Edinburgh got on top in the scrum as well, drawing penalties from the home team at the first two set-pieces. Playing advantage after the second offence, they should have stretched their lead through Hoyland, but the winger was held up by Sam Davies

The visitors were unable to find an opening after opting to scrum again, but they kept up the pressure. Magnus Bradbury, Jamie Hodgson and James Lang all had good carries deep into the Dragons half, and eventually Moyano managed to squeeze in at the left corner. Kinghorn was just off target with the conversion attempt this time.

The Dragons had looked out of sorts after losing Taine Basham to an early HIA, but they got a score back with an excellent move of their own. Jordan Williams made the initial break, captain Harrison Keddie carried on into the Edinburgh 22, and Davies was up in support to finish off and add the conversion. 

The Welsh team were soon back under pressure and the penalty count against them continued to mount. But at times Edinburgh were too eager to force an opening when attacking patiently was more likely to pay dividends.

A five-point lead was hardly a fair reflection of how dominant they had been – and that lead vanished seven minutes before the break when right-winger Jonah Holmes finished off. Davies converted again to put the Dragons ahead. 

Edinburgh needed to hit back before half-time – and they did when Moyano hacked ahead from a loose ball and won the race to touch down. Kinghorn missed the conversion again, but at least his team were back in front as the whistle went for half-time.

The Dragons had two penalties in the opposition 22 in the last minute of the half, but they went for touch both times and failed to score from the lineouts.

 

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Edinburgh played more patiently in the third quarter, relying on their forwards to gain ground steadily rather than looking for something spectacular from the backs. The Dragons eventually offended in front of their own posts, and this time Kinghorn made no mistake with the penalty. 

With both teams running out of steam a bit after the 100mph first half, Edinburgh got another kickable penalty a dozen minutes from time after failing to find an opening in a defiant Dragons defence. Kinghorn was on target again to put his side nine points clear.

That was just about game over, as the Dragons’ attempts to run out of defence were snuffed out with relative comfort. But there was still the small matter of the bonus-point try to chase for the visitors, and when they were awarded a penalty inside the final minute they saw their chance. Kinghorn kicked to touch, clean possession was won, and at the end of a multi-phase move Hoyland crossed for a well-deserved score. Kinghorn’s conversion ended the game.

 “It was a funny one,” Blair said of that final play. “With about 76 minutes on the clock, we were nine points ahead. I was thinking: ‘Are we just going to secure the win, or are we going to go for the bonus point?’

“Going for the bonus point was excellent. The players showed a huge amount of drive to go and get it and get us over the line.”

 

Teams –

Dragons: J Williams; J Holmes, J Dixon (A Owen 36), J Roberts, R Dyer (J Olowela 70); S Davies, G Bertranou; G Bateman (J Reynolds 70), T Davies (E Shipp 58), C Coleman (L Brown 41), B Carter, J Maksymiw, H Keddie (captain), T Basham (H Taylor 4), O Griffiths. 

Edinburgh: E Boffelli; D Hoyland, M Currie, J Lang (C Hutchison 36), R Moyano (C Savala 76); B Kinghorn, B Vellacott (captain) (H Pyrgos 72); B Venter, A McBurney (D Cherry 51), W Nel (A Williams 70), M Sykes, J Hodgson, N Haining (C Boyle 61), L Crosbie, M Bradbury (B Muncaster 69). 

Referee: M Adamson (SRU).

 

Scorers –

Dragons: Tries: S Davies, J Holmes. Cons: S Davies 2.

Edinburgh: Tries: Boffelli, Moyano 2, Hoyland. Cons: Kinghorn 2. Pens: Kinghorn 2.

Scoring sequence (Dragons first): 0-5; 0-7; 0-12; 5-12; 7-12; 12-12; 14-12; 14-17 (h-t) 14-20; 14-23; 14-28; 14-30. 


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About Stuart Bathgate 1112 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.

14 Comments

  1. Let us not forget that Vellacott, the two Argentinians and most other recent acquisitions wer Cockerill’s doing. It is unfortunate, to say the least, that he was not still around to pursue his vision and development of the club and its style of play, with Blair being the beneficiary. “Sonsie” get real. Cockerill was severely hampered by the pandemic and Townsend depriving him , at times unnecessarily, of substantial numbers of players, having to field many inexperienced players against much stronger sides

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    • signed on Cockerill’s watch or pursued and signed by Cockerill? Who knows.
      What we surely do know is that Cockerill outlived his value to Edinburgh, about a season after he arrived. He would not have evolved their style, he is simply incapable of that. Look at hw he inherited a top club at Leicester but as the game evolved they were stuck in the past and he ran them into the ground. Its taken years to get back to a decent side.
      Lets also remember Cockerill managed to piss off a number of players to the extent they left, and had moved facilitated. Pissed off is maybe the wrong word, lots of stories about bullying and more than one disciplinery hearing for Cockerill. He was sacked and not a moment to soon.
      No-one watching what was going on at Edinburgh mourns his parting. Listen to players who are still there and those who left.

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      • I suspect the truth is that RC was moved aside to make way for Mike Blair in much the same way Vern Cotter was when the SRU decided Gregor was their man. The rest is pure conjecture based on unsubstantiated rumours.
        The only absolute fact is that the new signings were not made by Mike Blair.
        As for Leicester, they continued to implode after RC left, due in no small part to poor recruitment caused by a refusal by the board to move with the times. They didn’t all of a sudden get better under a succession of new coaches and ironically only began to recover when Steve Borthwick concentrated on strong set-piece, sound defence and improved discipline, the very principles that RC has always espoused.
        I will always support whoever coaches Edinburgh and wish Mike Blair every success but equally I won’t be part of that group of keyboard warriors engaging in character assassination of Richard Cockerill.

  2. So good to see Bradbury back at his destructive best with ball in hand. What an excellent performance from a really intelligent Edinburgh side. And such a contrast to the inept Glasgow display in Italy. And all that – as others have said – with almost full team full of internationals missing. Crosbie also looked great, the young second row were solid, and Venter and Nel a powerful front row unit (how much have Edinburgh owed Nel over the years and how much will we miss him when he’s gone?).

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    • Edinburgh will miss him massively as are Scotland already. The recent scrum turnarounds against both Stormers and Bulls only served to show how strong he still is. Scotland could have done with a bit more stability in at least one of the Autumn Internationals. While not the fastest around the field now or running in tries form c.half way any more (v Leinster 2013), the platform he provides to either win or not lose easy territory and score or not concede penalty points is something very few can offer. One of the worlds best over the decade.

  3. The result is all important but the manner of victory was very impressive. The game management in the last 15 mins and the will to get the bonus point will hold them in good stead. The Welsh try many things to win but an entire firework show when Kinghorn attempted his first conversion was a new one 😉

  4. Crosbie was immense. Yet he won’t get a start for Edinburgh if everyone is fit. Its a real problem.
    Edinburgh won because their pack were so much on top at the breakdown, and in the ball carrying stakes. That is why Vellacott got quick ball with gaps to exploit.

    The 2 young locks were also great and stepped up to the mark. But IMHO what made Edinburgh so dominant was Crosbie and his fellow back rows. Crosbie, Haining and Bradbury is a BIG back row, full of ball carriers, full of players who knock opponents back. Back rows like that are rarely seen in any Scottish side. There is a lesson there

    • Agree wholeheartedly Septic+9, Bradbury was evidently in the mood and when he is he’s a destructive runner and very much international material. I thought beforehand the balance might have proven problematic but conversely what we saw was complete dominance up front and a great, open game. Haining is regularly good, almost unfailingly makes metres – Bradbury, more of the same s’il vous plait.😁 Across in Italy, Fagerson continues to look more comfortable at flanker.

    • Septic
      Did not see the game but find myself agreeing with your rationale: France and Ireland both had back rows, and indeed back fives stuffed with ball carriers in the AIs, bringing big success, whereas we looked threadbare in this department. Pity the three Edinburgh boys did not see more action in AIs but hope they can still put down markers.

    • Septic
      Did not see the game but find myself agreeing with your rationale: France and Ireland both had back rows, and indeed back fives stuffed with ball carriers in the AIs, bringing big success, whereas we looked threadbare in this department. Pity the three Edinburgh boys did not see more action in AIs but hope they can still put down markers.

  5. In hindsight- as poor as Glasgow were, Edinburgh were very good, yes its was “only” The Dragons but winning in that style away from home was very pleasing . Vellacott set the tone trusting his backs & forwards keeping ball in hand. Horne kicked the ball far too much, peculiar as on paper Glasgow team better than Edinburgh’s……
    Crosbie is getting back to his best, on this form he’s in my Scotland 23

  6. Classy display by Edinburgh, the points differential for me did not adequately reflect the gap between these two sides. Mike Bair has done a great job in a short space of time, for the performances are unrecognisable from the shambles that Cockerill left behind. There is now real depth all round and the fact that Crosbie got man of the match reflects how tough the battle for back row places in particular is going to be this year. Pleasing to see Boffelli make an immediate impact, while Vellacott is surely pressing his Scotland claims.

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  7. How can you fail to mention Luke Crosbie in your analysis, who was after all awarded man of the match!

    • Crosbie was superb – indeed, the back row were all excellent. Bradbury looked good at 8 – very aggressive, always getting over the gain line. Great to see a ‘reserve team’ putting their hand up for selection.

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