Newcastle V Edinburgh
In what many have described as a warm-up to December’s Heineken Champions Cup showdown, Edinburgh recorded an impressive road win against English Premiership outfit Newcastle Falcons.
Despite the fixture’s ‘friendly’ status, there was certainly no love lost between the two courageous sides, whilst commitment in defence was at a premium.
“Kingston Park is a hard place to come, and Newcastle are a good side who had a good result last week. So, we are happy with where we are at – it doesn’t count for much, but it’s a positive going into next week,” said Head Coach Richard Cockerill.
“We’ve got to keep building our game. We’re not getting too ahead of ourselves, we’ve just got to keep working hard – obviously there’s some other guys to come into the team as well.
“We were really solid and combative last week and today physically we were very good – ball in hand we created some really good opportunities.
“It was good to get game time for lots of guys, and we got some of the young guys out there at the end as well.”
Edinburgh led for the large majority of the encounter, and with a fresh half back pairing in Henry Pyrgos and Jaco van der Walt inserted in the backline, Cockerill’s starting XV were more than a match for their Anglo counterparts.
Both sides swapped penalties in a back-and-forward opening 40 minutes and with South African van der Walt kicking accurately, the visitors shot out to a 6-3 lead.
Although the hosts drew level, with veteran stand-off Toby Flood matching from the boot, it wasn’t long before Edinburgh scored the first try of the contest.
Summer recruit, and returning capital product, Matt Scott, powered over the whitewash to make it 13-6.
With Edinburgh’s back-row trio providing a menacing presence in defence, there was no room for the Falcon’s danger men to breathe – and Cockerill singled out praise for his front-eight.
“I thought Luke Hamilton was really good. I thought Fraser Maclenzie making his comeback did a really good job, whilst I thought both front-rows did a really good job as well.
I thought Matt Scott showed up well again – but across the board, as a team, we looked very united and we worked hard together.
Edinburgh fielded the same starting XV to begin the second-period, however there was certainly no signs of fatigue. Van der Walt once again split the uprights with a lengthy penalty before Cockerill rang the changes across the board.
With a full Scotland international front-row in WP Nel, Ross Ford and Allan Dell taking the field, Edinburgh’s strength and depth was clear to see, whilst the Falcons scrum felt the full brunt of the replacement’s greenness.
Although Newcastle huffed and puffed, and at times threated Edinburgh’s whitewash, the visitor’s substitutes made the difference.
Centre James Johnstone and Callum Hunter-Hill both made terrific breaks to drive Cockerill’s side into Newcastle territory, and when winger Jamie Farndale dotted down in the closing stages, the match was all but over.
“We need to keep building belief in what we are doing and that we are good enough to compete with teams that are in the Champions Cup,” said Cockerill. “Newcastle finished fourth in the league - they put out a good side tonight - and I thought we were probably good for our win.”
“We made some errors, we put ourselves under pressure and we’ve got to do a lot of things better - but it’s a really good building block for us.
“Our mentality is fantastic: team spirit, effort, and we wanted to keep them away from our goal line, which was really good.
“Hopefully nobody will take us lightly and we just keep cracking on and doing what we do.