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Edinburgh hoping to end home season in style with win over Dragons

Guinness PRO14 Rugby Editor 27 Apr 2017
Edinburgh v Newport Gwent Dragons

Duncan Hodge is hoping to round off Edinburgh’s home season in the Guinness PRO12 with a victory in what will be his penultimate match as interim head coach when Newport Gwent Dragons visit the Myreside Stadium.

The hosts will be desperate to end a run of eight straight league defeats against a side who are without an away victory in the Guinness PRO12 all season.

What’s at stake?

Looking at the two teams’ league position in isolation, you’d think that little more than pride was at stake, with neither able to qualify for next season’s Champions Cup, let alone the semi-finals.

But Edinburgh’s players will be keen to impress in what’s left of their campaign, with Richard Cockerill set to take over as head coach during the summer.

However, they are without a win since January, with their 21-6 defeat at Benetton Treviso in Round 20 two weeks ago extending what has been a poor run of form.

For the Dragons, this represents a final chance to pick up a win on the road this season and break a streak of 18 consecutive away defeats that extends back to last year’s Challenge Cup quarter final triumph at Gloucester Rugby.

Like their hosts, they are also winless in three months, and were edged out 21-16 by Scarlets during Judgement Day at Principality Stadium in their last fixture.

Edinburgh team news

Duncan Hodge has made four changes to the starting line-up that were beaten by Benetton Treviso, while captain Grant Gilchrist switches positions in the second row.

The one alteration in the backs comes at inside centre, where Australian Junior Rasolea comes in for Phil Burleigh.

There is a first start of the season for hooker George Turner, with Ross Ford dropping to the bench, while tight head prop Alan Dell joins him in the front row in place of Murray McCallum.

The other change sees Ben Toolis come back into the second row after he had to pull out against Treviso due to an illness and there is a return from injury on the bench for back row John Hardie.

Edinburgh have eight players unavailable through injury and it is in the front row where they are really depleted, with props WP Nel, Alasdair Dickinson, Jack Cosgrove and Rory Sutherland all out.

Newport Gwent Dragons team news

Head coach Kingsley Jones has changed the entire front row from the one that faced the Scarlets with props Thomas Davies and Brok Harris packing down either side of hooker T. Rhys Thomas.

There are two alterations among the backs, with Pat Howard being selected on the left wing in place of Adam Warren, with Jack Dixon partnering Sam Beard in the centre instead of Tyler Morgan.

The back row has been re-jigged with captain Lewis Evans and Ollie Griffiths swapping positions from the ones they started in against Scarlets.

There could also be a debut for academy prospect Owain Leonard, after the scrum-half was named on the bench.

Talking points

Edinburgh’s interim head coach Duncan Hodge is keen to give his supporters something to cheer about in their final home game after their long run without a victory.

“We see tomorrow night’s match as a big opportunity to make amends for recent results,” Hodge said.

“Our encounter down in Newport earlier in the season was a forward orientated battle in tough conditions, but both teams played some good running rugby and we hope for more of the same when they come to Myreside.

“With this being our final home game of the season, we’re also looking for a big performance to repay the fans.

“They have been with us every step of the way through a testing campaign and this is an opportunity for us all to thank them for their continued support.”

Dragons head coach Jones is eyeing a higher place in the table as his side look to finally lift themselves away from tenth.

“We want to finish above Edinburgh,” Jones said. “It’s been a tough season and it hasn’t been a great season, we know that, but there is still an opportunity to finish ninth.

“Edinburgh are in the same boat as us and we have to go there and believe we can win. We have to bring that application, intensity and belief (from Judgement Day).”

Lions watch

None of the players from either team were named in Warren Gatland’s squad for the British & Irish Lions tour of New Zealand, but there are several who might be called upon as replacements in case of injuries.

Edinburgh openside Hamish Watson impressed for Scotland during the RBS 6 Nations and could provide a different option should anything happen to any of the Lions’ flankers.

Key battle: Jason Tovey v Angus O’Brien

The Dragons’ record points scorer Jason Tovey will aim to pile on the misery for his old side from fly-half and he’ll be faced with the young man who stepped into the breach after his departure last year.

Tovey has been preferred to Duncan Weir in the No.10 shirt for what is his fifth start of the season, but he’s been a creative influence when he has been picked, setting up three tries.

Angus O’Brien has scored 152 points in all competitions this season for the Dragons and his kicking kept them in the contest against the Scarlets, with three penalties and one conversion.

Again, he is one of his side’s main suppliers, with four assists over the course of the season and he is not afraid of taking opponents on himself with the ball in hand.

Key stat

Edinburgh have not won since moving to the Myreside Stadium from BT Murrayfield in January.

Did you know?

Over 12 months have passed since Newport Gwent Dragons last won away from home, when they defeated Gloucester 23-21 in the European Challenge Cup on April 10 2016.

Edinburgh top points scorer: Duncan Weir 87pts. Top try scorer: Magnus Bradbury 5

Newport Gwent Dragons top points scorer: Angus O’Brien 94pts. Top try scorers: Pat Howard, Sarel Pretorius 4

Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 27, Edinburgh won 13, Dragons won 13 and 1 game drawn.

At Myreside, 7.35pm – Live on BBC Alba
Referee: Dan Jones (WRU, 8th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Wayne Davies (WRU), Cammy Rudkin (SRU)
Citing Commissioner: Iain Goodall (SRU)
TMO: Jon Mason (WRU)

The Guinness PRO12 Final takes place on May 27 at Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Fans can guarantee their place by booking their tickets via www.ticketmaster.ie

Further information: www.pro12rugby.com/final

Historical Lineup Pre Opta (sfms data) - Preview - v2

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Edinburgh snatch late win against Dragons

Charlie Bennett 28 Apr 2017

Edinburgh Rugby scored three tries in the final ten minutes to snatch a thrilling 24-20 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons as the Guinness PRO12 continued to produce cracking matches so late in the season.

The referee awarded captain Grant Gilchrist a last-gasp try with the ball buried under a pile of bodies, as Edinburgh surged forwards from a scrum – sensing blood after being seemingly dead and buried.

They had trailed for much of the match against a well-organised Dragons side, who led through tries from Pat Howard and Carl Meyer.

But Blair Kinghorn and Damien Hoyland hit back, before Edinburgh’s pack did the rest – shunting the Dragons back for a famous comeback.

Edinburgh made four changes to their side, including an entirely new front row with George Turner making his first start of the season at hooker.

The Dragons also made changes, with props Thomas Davies and Brok Harris drafted into the side – making the battle up front intriguing.

The Welsh side started brightly, winning an early penalty which they sent into Edinburgh’s 22 – but the hosts regrouped and denied them by forcing a penalty of their own at the ruck.

But Edinburgh moved ahead shortly after, through a Jason Tovey penalty – the kicker going on to have a major influence on the outcome.

The fly-half’s kicking from hand was superb in the first half, as he kept the Dragons pinned back in their own 22.

But the Dragons remained firm, soaking up Edinburgh’s pressure – before scoring the first try of the match through winger Howard, who dotted down in the left-hand corner after a sweeping move from right to left by the Dragons’ backs.

And Edinburgh’s first half got worse minutes later as Tovey was forced off with an injury, replaced by Duncan Weir, although he come back later in the contest.

The visitors stretched their lead just before the break through an Angus O’Brien penalty, as they continued to march towards an away win.

And it got better after the interval as full-back Meyer scored their second try of the night.

Kinghorn thought he had scored just after the hour-mark, but it was disallowed and the referee brandished a yellow card to Allan Dell for a no-arms clearance at the ruck.

But they showed plenty of spirit, and the fit-again Tovey supplied a delightful pass to Kinghorn to score with eight minutes left.

It got better shortly after, with Tovey again pulling the strings and Hoyland finishing neatly, before a late push forward saw the ball grounded late on.

The Guinness PRO12 Final takes place on May 27 at Aviva Stadium, Dublin. 
Fans can guarantee their place by booking their tickets via www.ticketmaster.ie

Further information: www.pro12rugby.com/final

Match Page 2017-18 - Summary WP:137

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Performance WP:138