CAMMY FENTON’S last-minute try earned Edinburgh a bonus-point victory over that Dragons which propels them five points clear of Ulster in third place in Pro14 Conference B.
Hooker Fenton touched down from an Edinburgh maul with the clock red, rounding off a highly satisfying 25-12 win for Richard Cockerill’s men in Ebbw Vale.
The line-out drive, as is becoming standard, was a powerful weapon for the visitors. The man Fenton replaced, Neil Cochrane, had earlier bagged the opening try from a maul, with Sam Hidalgo-Clyne converting to add to his earlier penalty.
Edinburgh’s 10-0 half-time advantage was stretched by five points after the break when centre Chris Dean powered over.
Dragons captain Rynard Landman hauled his side back to within a score, however, touching down twice in 15 minutes, Dorian Jones converting one of the lock’s tries.
But Edinburgh sealed the victory when replacement Duncan Weir finished off Nathan Fowles’ break with 10 minutes remaining, before Fenton snatched the bonus point at the death.
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A new buzz around Edinburgh
We’re getting used to Cockerill’s Edinburgh bagging results like this one. Not merely by scrapping and slugging and bludgeoning teams to a dirge-like death-by-penalties; but by delivering in those all-or-nothing moments where skills and mettle are ruthlessly scrutinised.
Junior Rasolea’s match-winning try against Stade Francais. Mark Bennett’s decisive score in the home win over Leinster. Weir, hauled back from Worcester, knowing he will be jettisoned come the end of the season, slamming over the drop-goal that sank Ulster in Belfast. And now Fenton, something of an outcast six months ago, coming up with the goods at a time when every point is so precious.
Belief. Hostility. Pride. Only now can you associate these words with Edinburgh. Perhaps even a little swagger too. And why not, when the scalps of Leinster, Ulster and Glasgow adorn the dressing room walls?
This squad showed only the merest glimmers of its potential last season. By and large, it was the softest of soft touches. It couldn’t be trusted to see off an under-14s team, let alone trade blow for blow with these heavyweights and come out on top.
Now, they have four wins from their last four league outings, and only Glasgow and the Cheetahs (both away from home) have beaten them in their last 11.
Cockerill pledged to build a more belligerent team, with young, local talent at its core. So far, he is delivering emphatically on his promise.
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Those greener Scots who have known little but misery and angst in red and black are realising that playing for their home-town club needn’t be a burden.
Luke Crosbie, Lewis Carmichael, Jamie Ritchie and Murray McCallum are flourishing. Ben Toolis was a totem of strength even through the darkest moments of last term, but his long-time colleagues and underperformers, Grant Gilchrist and Stuart McInally, are in scintillating form.
Blair Kinghorn is arguably the Pro14’s player of the season to date, while Dean’s industry in defence and effectiveness with the ball in midfield is improving apace.
That Cockerill is guiding this growth even though blindsided by two high-profile disciplinary infractions – one involving his captain – is all the more impressive.
Already, his win rate (now just shy of 73%) is miles ahead of those of his six predecessors, none of whom have attained a better record than 50%. Even allowing for the relatively small sample size, and the fact that some of those coaches faced Heineken Cup, rather than European Challenge Cup opposition, it’s a striking tally.
The Edinburgh supporters should be mightily heartened, even though they don’t know where they will go to watch their team beyond May.
Edinburgh are still galaxies short of where Cockerill wants them to be. But there’s resilience now, a togetherness and self-belief that has been so brutally absent for so very long.
Ulster travel to face defending champions Scarlets, second in Conference B and three points above the Scots, on Saturday. Against the odds, Edinburgh are holding their feet to the fire.
Dragons: H Amos; R Dyer, Z Kirchner, J Dixon, J Rosser; D Jones, C Davies (S Pretorius 74); S Hobbs, L Belcher (E Shipp 79), L Brown (L Fairbrother 47); J Davies, R Landman; A Wainwright ( O Griffiths 40), J Benjamin (H Keddie 47), L Evans.
Edinburgh: D Fife; J Harries, J Johnstone, C Dean (S Rasolea 61), D van der Merwe; J van der Walt (D Weir 70), S Hidalgo-Clyne (N Fowles 70); J Lay (R Sutherland 57), N Cochrane (C Fenton 77), M McCallum; F McKenzie, L Carmichael; M Bradbury, J Hardie (L Crosbie 77), V Mata (C du Preez 77).
Dragons: Tries: Landman 2; Con: Jones;
Edinburgh: Tries: Cochrane, Dean, Weir, Fenton; Con: Hidalgo-Clyne; Pen: Hidalgo-Clyne
Scoring sequence (Dragons first): 0-3; 0-8; 0-10 (h-t) 0-15; 5-15; 7-15; 12-15; 12-20; 12-25