Newcastle Falcons 8
DAVID BARNES @ Kingston Park
THIS was Edinburgh’s first win on the road this season – at the eighth time of asking – and it was pretty good time to get that monkey off their back. A thoroughly disciplined performance and comprehensive result moved Richard Cockerill’s side a major step closer to qualifying for the Champions Cup quarter-finals, and sets them up nicely for a festive 1872 Cup double-header against Glasgow Warriors over the next two Saturdays.
They are now four points clear of Montpellier atop of pool five. Next up in Europe is a trip to France on 12th January to take on a Toulon side who are already out of contention, before they welcome Montpellier to Murrayfield six days later for a match which will likely decide who finishes the pool stage as top seed.
Edinburgh had more of the ball during the first quarter and patiently worked through the phases, but apart from a half-break by Darcy Graham up the right touch-line, they struggled to open their opponents up. Newcastle, meanwhile, broke twice from deep, with Scotland cap Chris Harris and Tom Arscott both finding gaps in the outside centre channel, and it took some frantic scrambling defence to snuff out the threat.
It was third time lucky for Newcastle when full-back Simon Hammersley collected a contested high ball and released Vereniki Gonova on the right, who in turn sent Sinoti Sinoti clear, and the Kiwi winger had enough pace to keep ahead of Luke Hamilton on a 30-yard dash to the line.
Edinburgh’s Jaco van der Walt and Newcastle’s Toby Flood exchanged penalties as the game moved towards the half hour mark, before the visitors set up camp on the home team’s line and turned the screw with some powerful tight driving play – but, in the end, they had to make do with three more points from the boot of their South African playmaker after referee Alexandre Ruiz got sick of hands in the ruck.
That left it finely balanced at 8-6 to the hosts going into the break, but Edinburgh came flyong out the blocks at the resumption, with James Johnstone grabbing the lead for the visitors after just two minutes, through a clever set-move from a line-out in which Henry Pyrgos sent a delicate chip over the top for the centre to race onto and touch down under the posts.
A brilliantly judged diagonal into the corner by van der Walt forced Goneva to concede a line-out on Newcastle’s five-yard line, and Edinburgh started to build real pressure through the forwards, but then a rush of blood to the head from van der Walt – throwing a long, loopy, miss-pass to the stationary Duhan van der Merwe – let the hosts off the hook.
Edinburgh continued to press the issue with van der Walt pouncing on a loose ball and feeding Graham, who bounced one tackle then got the ball away to the onrushing Chris Dean, but he had nobody in support. Eventually a scrum penalty allowed van der Walt to stretch the gap to eight points.
Newcastle rallied with Sinoti twice making ground down the right and desperate Edinburgh conceded a penalty which was kicked to the corner. The away team were then handed a big let-off when the overthrow allowed them to clear the danger – and they took full advantage. A few minutes later, slick hands of turnover ball sent van der Merwe racing up the left touchline for the try which killed off any chance Newcastle had of sneaking a win.
Newcastle Falcons: S Hammersley; V Goneva, C Harris, J Williams (T Arscott 9), S Sinoti; T Flood, S Takulua (S Stuart 75); S Lockwood (S Mavinga 60), K Cooper (G McGuigan 60), T Davison (J Payne 75), G Young (R Burrows 40), T Cavubati, M Wilson, J Hardie, N Nagusa (G Graham 14).
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; D Graham, J Johnstone, C Dean (J Socino 77), D van der Merwe; J van der Walt (S Hickey 75), H Pyrgos (N Fowles 77); A Dell (P Schoeman 46), S McInally (D Cherry 68), W Nel (S Berghan 65), B Toolis (C Hunter-Hill 75), G Gilchrist, L Hamilton, H Watson (L Crosbie 75), V Mata.
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz
Newcastle Falcons: Try: Sinoti; Pen: Flood.
Edinburgh: Try: Johnstone, van der Merwe; Con: Van der Walt; Pen: Van der Walt 3;
Scoring sequence (Newcastle Falcons first): 5-0; 5-3; 8-3; 8-6 (h-t) 8-11; 8-13; 8-16; 8-21