Second-half comeback seals win in Newport
Edinburgh fought back from a 14-point deficit to beat Dragons 17-22 in the opening round of games in the 2023-24 BKT United Rugby Championship season.
Early tries from Sio Tomkinson and Corey Baldwin gave the Welsh region the perfect start at Rodney Parade.
But the boot of eventual BKT URC Player of the Match Ben Healy kept Edinburgh in the game, and Ben Vellacott’s try 15 minutes from time set up a grandstand finish.
And Healy had the final say, kicking two late penalties to seal victory.
The Dragons were searching for a win on the opening day of the season for the first time since 2013, as head coach Dai Flanagan spoke of his desire to turn Rodney Parade into a “fortress” ahead of the game.
The Welsh region were ahead within two minutes, Sio Tomkinson scoring under the posts after Angus O’Brien’s offload released Jared Rosser.
Cai Evans – who joined the Dragons from the Ospreys in July – added the conversion to score his first points for the region.
The early try set a fervent atmosphere, and backed by the crowd the Dragons were almost in for a second try when O’Brien’s cross-field kick found Rosser, but Tomkinson could not gather the offload.
The second try came after 17 minutes, the Dragons worked the ball down to the five-metre line before another O’Brien cross-field kick found Corey Baldwin in acres of space to score.
Edinburgh grew into the game as the first half minutes ticked by, but twice after getting into the Dragons’ 22 they were thwarted by Ollie Griffiths on his 100th appearance for the Welsh region.
The visitors were finally on the scoreboard just before the half hour mark, Ben Healy with the penalty from just outside the Dragons’ 22 after the hosts were penalised for not rolling away.
Edinburgh continued to dominate possession and territory, but the Dragons defence showed a level of resilience it has been lacking on a consistent basis in recent years.
And against the run of play the hosts thought they had a third try of the game when Tomkinson picked up a bobbled pass, but referee Eoghan Cross deemed the ball to have been knocked on by a Dragons hand.
Healy’s second penalty of the game just after the restart reduced the Dragons’ lead, but Evans’ first penalty of the game minutes later restored their 11-point lead.
Scotland international Healy slotted over his third penalty of the game before finding a gap in the Dragons defence and offloading to captain Ben Vellacott for Edinburgh’s first try of the game.
Healy added the conversion to make it a one-point game with quarter of an hour left to play at Rodney Parade.
Healy had the last laugh in south Wales, slotting over two late penalties to give Edinburgh a first lead in the game and the win.
It was not the convincing 44-6 win that Edinburgh registered over the Dragons on the opening day of last season, but Sean Everitt’s side will travel back to Scotland with the victory.
Edinburgh head coach Sean Everitt said: “We spoke about resilience in pre-season and we certainly showed that tonight.
“We stuck to our plan in the second half, but tweaked it a little with more contestable kicking and then our defence was really good and we managed to get a couple turnovers.
“I’m really pleased with the result and the way the boys fought back.”
Dragons: Cai Evans; Corey Baldwin, Sio Tomkinson, Steff Hughes (capt), Jared Rosser; Angus O’Brien, Rhodri Williams; Rodrigo Martinez, Bradley Roberts, Lloyd Fairbrother, Matthew Screech, Ben Carter, George Nott, Harri Keddie, Ollie Griffiths.
Replacements: James Benjamin, Rhodri Jones, Luke Yendle, Joe Davies, Sean Lonsdale, Dane Blacker, Will Reed, Jack Dixon.
Edinburgh Rugby: Cammy Scott; Ross McCann, Mark Bennett, Matt Currie, Wes Goosen; Ben Healy, Ben Vellacott (capt); Boan Venter, Dave Cherry, Javan Sebastian, Glen Young, Jamie Hodgson, Sam Skinner, Cameron Neild, Tom Dodd.
Replacements: Adam McBurney, Robin Hislop, Angus Williams, Marshall Sykes, Luke Crosbie, Charlie Shiel, Chris Dean, Jordan Edmunds.
Referee: Eoghan Cross (IRFU)
Assistant referees: Gareth Newman & Simon Rees (WRU)
TMO: Olly Hodges (IRFU)