Pro14: Edinburgh 34-17 Dragons - Hosts secure crucial bonus-point win
|Guinness Pro14: Edinburgh v Dragons|
|Tries: Johnstone (2) Bradbury, Van der Merwe (2) Cons: Van der Walt (3) Pen: Van der Walt|
|Tries: Morgan (2) Cons: Lewis (2) Pen: Lewis|
Edinburgh fought off a spirited Dragons side to secure a bonus-point win at Murrayfield and stay in the hunt for a Pro14 play-off place.
James Johnstone twice put the hosts in front but each time it was cancelled out by a Tyler Morgan score.
Josh Lewis edged Dragons in front with a penalty but Jaco van der Walt levelled.
Then tries from Magnus Bradbury and Duhan Van der Merwe (twice) eased Edinburgh clear as they seized control.
The result moves Richard Cockerill's side into second in Conference B, ahead of third place Ulster by two points but 17 behind leaders Leinster.
Dragons, meanwhile, remain sixth, level on points with bottom side Southern Kings.
Both teams fly out the blocks
It may be peacetime in the Six Nations, but there was plenty to fight for in the Pro14 this weekend as action resumed.
With leaders Leinster all-but crowned Conference B winners, Edinburgh are in a tight contest for the remaining two play-off spots, while Dragons have Southern Kings looming over their shoulders at the bottom.
Both flew out the blocks and after first keeping Dragons at bay, Edinburgh crossed first. Chris Dean cut a superb line against the grain and raced clear, he was brought down inside the Dragons' 22, but three phases later, Johnstone would score.
The centre skipped past one defender and burrowed past another to touch down after it was shipped left to him by Van der Walt, who added the conversion.
It was a blistering attack from the hosts and signalled their intent, but it was matched by Dragons just three minutes later. In the middle of the pitch Jordan Williams shaped to go right, but he spotted a mismatch on the left and switched the play.
It left the visitors' backs up against a number of Edinburgh forwards, and it was shovelled perfectly along the line for Morgan to cross in the corner for a superb team try.
Neither side were in the mood to string the phases together, and Johnstone crossed for his second off a first-phase move, as the impressive Darcy Graham scythed his way through on an inside line and offloaded for the centre to touch down.
Not to be outdone, Dragons' centre Morgan intelligently read Dean's pass and ran under the posts for an intercept score, and when Lewis added the extras and a penalty it was the Welsh side who edged in front. They admirably soaked up Edinburgh pressure to lead 17-14 at the break.
Edinburgh overpower tiring Dragons
There was virtually no tactical kicking as the teams continued to keep ball in hand and attack from deep. Lewis knocked a long-range penalty wide for the visitors, and, after a rampaging Edinburgh attack led to an offside infringement, Van der Walt levelled the game with 25 minutes left.
The game up to the hour mark had been all about quick hands and fast, attacking rugby, and it was there for the taking for the team who could gain a semblance of control.
Edinburgh did so and the forwards were at the heart of it. A string of bludgeoning carries brought them to within metres of the Dragons' line, the brilliant Bradbury eventually steaming over with the help of his fellow forwards.
The Dragons, so impressive up to the final quarter, began to tire and hulking winger Van der Merwe took full advantage to grab himself a brace and wrap up the bonus-point win for Edinburgh.
The first was the South African in a nutshell. After plucking Dean's looping pass out the sky on the half-way line he stormed up the left wing before being cut down by Jared Rosser.
But he jumped straight back up, bounced off two tacklers with ridiculous ease and side-stepped the covering defence to dot down.
It was an astonishing finish, but he did not have to work as hard for his second.
Patient build-up from the pack left the visitors' defence frayed and Van der Walt spotted Dougie Fife in space. The full-back drew his opposite number Williams and passed to Van der Merwe to ease over and maintain Edinburgh's unbeaten home record this season.
Edinburgh: Dougie Fife; Darcy Graham, James Johnstone, Chris Dean, Duhan van der Merwe; Jaco van der Walt, Henry Pyrgos (Capt); Pierre Schoeman, Ross Ford, Pietro Ceccarelli, Fraser McKenzie, Ben Toolis, Magnus Bradbury, Luke Crosbie, Viliame Mata.
Replacements: David Cherry, Rory Sutherland, Murray McCallum, Callum Hunter-Hill, Ally Miller, Nathan Fowles, Simon Hickey, Juan Pablo Socino.
Dragons: Jordan Williams, Jared Rosser, Tyler Morgan, Jarryd Sage, Will Talbot-Davies, Josh Lewis, Rhodri Williams; Brok Harris, Richard Hibbard (captain), Lloyd Fairbrother, Joe Davies, Matthew Screech, Harrison Keddie, Ollie Griffiths, James Benjamin
Replacements: Rhys Lawrence, Rhys Fawcett, Dan Suter, Lewis Evans, Taine Basham, Rhodri Davies, Gavin Henson, Zane Kirchner
Referee: Quinton Immelman (SARU)
Assistant: Dan Jones (WRU), Ben Breakspear (WRU)
TMO: Tim Hayes (WRU)