Edinburgh toiled a little at times but got their fourth win of the Guinness PRO14 season ultimately with some comfort in a defensive struggle against Dragons at BT Murrayfield.
The Welsh region were a lot more competitive than in recent seasons under the former Scotland forwards coach Dean Ryan, but only once managed to go through the aggressive Edinburgh defence.
However Richard Cockerill’s side weren’t that impressive in attack themselves. They scored two fine handling tries from Blair Kinghorn and Duhan van der Merwe, but the incisiveness seemed to desert them when they got within sniffing distance of the Dragons line, while the Welsh side were far better organised and defended tenaciously themselves.
Matt Scott got man of the match honours for a committed performance in attack and defence, but the most impressive players afield were forwards, notably Pierre Schoeman and Luke Crosbie.
The capital side go second in their conference behind Munster, in a play-off position with the first quarter of the season now complete.
“It’s a win, but execution let us down,” said Cockerill. “We dropped the ball at times in the first half, a few forward passes and overall made too many errors. We let them off the hook too much.
“If you let them stay in the game they are going to battle. We deserved to win but that was all.”
We are developing a depth in our squad and we will rotate it next week and other guys will get opportunities. We can’t be too sad as we won but we need to be better.
Edinburgh spent a lot of time in defence in the first half and uncharacteristically turned down all their penalty shots at goal until the clock went red at the end of the half.
Sam Davies missed two reasonably kickable penalties for Dragons, while key turnovers by Crosbie and Schoeman stopped the visitors as they came forward.
Edinburgh twice kicked easy penalties to the corner and although they were unlucky with the first – referee George Clancy called it stopped just as Edinburgh started to get momentum – from the second one they took the lead.
There was a penalty advantage but Henry Pyrgos, Scott and Simon Hickey worked the space for Kinghorn to sprint around the cover and score near the posts.
Hickey added the conversion but it was strong defence from Edinburgh that preserved the lead as they chose to scrum their next penalty inside the Dragons’ 22.
This time the Welsh defence held well but another penalty – the seventh against the Dragons in the half – was finally kicked through by Hickey to put Edinburgh 10-0 up at the break.
The second half opened with Edinburgh in the ascendant, but they didn’t make the most of the territory and ended a man down, as Ben Toolis took out Jordan Williams as the Dragons full-back countered after a cross kick by Hickey fell loose.
Hugh Taylor’s infringement near his own line convinced referee Clancy to balance the sides again soon after, and Hickey kicked Edinburgh 13-0 up from the easy penalty.
But Edinburgh’s solid defence was punctured far too easily just before the hour as Rhodri Williams and Davies opened a massive gap for Adam Warren to go through untouched from first-phase ball and score under the posts, leaving the stand-off an easy conversion.
Edinburgh needed a quick response and got one with a similarly simple score, created by good hands across the back line with Mike Willemse, Kinghorn and replacement Jamie Ritchie involved to allow van der Merwe to walk in to the corner, Hickey converting.
Edinburgh’s accuracy and execution in the last ten minutes wasn’t quite good enough to make the scoreline more reflective of their second half domination, but it was a solid enough home win.
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; E Sau, M Bennett, M Scott, D van der Merwe; S Hickey, H Pyrgos (capt); P Schoeman, M Willemse, P Ceccarelli; L Carmichael, B Tollis; J Barclay, L Crosbie, M Bradbury.
Replacements: C Fenton for Willemse 68, R Sutherland for Schoeman 77, S Berghan for Ceccarelli 53, G Gilchrist for Carmichael 60, J Ritchie for Barclay 60, C Shiel for Pyrgos 75, G Taylor for Bennett 65.
Dragons: J Williams; O Jenkins, A Warren, J Dixon, A Hewitt; S Davies, R Williams (capt); B Harris, R Hibbard, L Brown; J Davies, M Screech; H Taylor, T Basham, H Keddie
Replacements:, J Reynolds for Harris 71, L Fairbrother for Brown 65, J Benjamin for Taylor 70, L Baldwin for R Williams 75, T Morgan for Dixon 71.
Ref: G Clancy (IRFU)