Edinburgh finally made good on their big scrum and forward advantage for the full bonus point win over Newcastle to give their Heineken Champions Cup qualification chances a real lift.
The capital side had toiled to the break and were three points in arrears despite the Falcons’ depleted personnel meaning they were a man down on the bench and without a recognised tight-head prop.
But in the second half Edinburgh made that advantage tell with a penalty try and scores from Chris Dean and Blair Kinghorn to add to Hamish Watson’s first-half counter.
“Next week will be a different game but we can only do what we did tonight and get a bonus point,” said Edinburgh’s head coach Richard Cockerill. “Fair play to them fronting up the way they did but we needed to get a bonus point tonight, we did that and we’re still well in this group.”
Captain Stuart McInally said they knew that whatever team Newcastyle put out it was going to be a challenge.
“We knew it was going to be difficult no matter how many players they were missing, and the weather conditions were not easy, but we got the job done and the bonus point was critical,” said the Scotland hooker.
Newcastle’s last gasp attempt to register a specialist tight-head was rejected just minutes from kick-off. Jack Payne had travelled north with the Falcons, but was not allowed to play because he hadn’t been registered by Tuesday, since when Newcastle had suffered two more injuries to their listed players.
Despite Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill agreeing to Payne playing, EPCR officialdom refused to allow Newcastle any leeway meaning that Sam Lockwood – a specialist loose-head – played in the No 3 jersey and the Falcons went a man down on the bench.
But it was over half-an-hour before Edinburgh even attempted to enforce their obvious advantage in a first-half littered with mistakes, the majority by the home team.
Edinburgh even tried a quick tap from a free kick when they could have taken the scrum, and it backfired when James Johnstone fumbled in midfield and the home side conceded a penalty in their own 22, Brett Connon kicking the Falcons in front.
In 14 minutes Edinburgh hit back, a series of patient forward drives gaining a couple of yards at a time eventually wearing down the Newcastle defensive line for Pyrgos to put Watson in from close range, van der Walt converting off the post.
But on the half hour Newcastle’s patience brought reward as they tested Edinburgh at the line until the defensive alignment broke down for Pedro Bettencourt to send Adam Radwan into a huge space up the line for the try in the corner, Connon converting.
When Edinburgh did eventually try to drive their scrum, it brought a penalty and although van de Walt hit the upright again, he was on target when Darcy Graham retrieved possession and Newcastle were penalised again.
However a high tackle by Toolis followed by Gilchrist coming into the side of a maul gave Connon the penalty chance to give Newcastle a deserved 13-10 lead at the break.
It lasted just four minutes as with some harsh half-time words ringing in their ears Edinburgh did what had worked in the first half, a series of close quarter drives off lineout ball ending with Pyrgos popping a pass for Dean to go under the posts, van der Walt converting.
And the next time they got down in the Falcons 22 the home side turned the screw with a succession of penalties and scrums inevitably leading to a penalty try with 55 minutes played.
Edinburgh thought they had the bonus try but Darcy Graham just had a toe in touch as he went into the corner, and it took a brilliant open field tackle by replacement hooker Dave Cherry to stop Radwan as he weaved through.
Edinburgh got their bonus when superb work by Mata and van der Walt’s kick-through provided Kinghorn with one of the easiest tries he’ll ever score.
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; D Graham, J Johnstone, C Dean, D van der Merwe; J van der Walt, H Pyrgos; P Schoeman, S McInally (capt), WP Nel; B Toolis, G Gilchrist; J Ritchie, H Watson, V Mata.
Replacements: D Cherry for McInally 63, A Dell for Schoeman 58, S Berghan for Nel 58, C Hunter-Hill for Toolis 61, L Hamilton for Ritchie 58, N Fowles for Pyrgos 69, S Hickey for Kinghorn 73, J P Socino for Johnstone 63.
Newcastle: A Tait; T Arscott , C Harris, P Bettencourt, A Radwan; B Connon, T Takulua; A Brocklebank, G McGuigan, S Lockwood; T Cavubati, G Young; R Burrows (capt), G Graham, C Chick.
Replacements: S Socino for McGuigan 68, S Mavinga for Lockwood 59, C Green for Cavubati 63, S Uzkowe for Chick 68, S Stuart, T Flood, J Williams for Tait 68.
Ref: M Mitrea (Ita)