North and Corbisiero debut as Saints see off Edinburgh

TRY GUY - Ken Pisi got on the scoresheet against Edinburgh (picture by Dave Ikin)
TRY GUY - Ken Pisi got on the scoresheet against Edinburgh (picture by Dave Ikin)
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George North and Alex Corbisiero enjoyed victorious Saints debuts as Edinburgh were slayed 24-6 at Franklin’s Gardens on Friday night.

But neither of the Lions could claim to be the heroes of the hour as Phil Dowson stole the show with a quickfire second-half double.

Dowson’s scores were added to by a Ken Pisi effort, seven points from the boot of Stephen Myler and a nice moment for academy fly-half Sam Olver, kicking his first conversion for the senior team.

It had been a turgid affair before North and Corbisiero entered the fray, but the final 20 minutes were full of thrills as spills as the Lions stars lifted the Gardens crowd and the team.

Edinburgh had erected a red wall for much of the game, but Alan Solomons’ men couldn’t hold out as Saints proved to have too much in the tank, and on the bench.

The opening exchanges were largely played in the Edinburgh half, with Lee Dickson and Myler probing for gaps in away defence.

But the Scottish side were proving a tough nut to crack, with the first 15 minutes going by without a try-scoring opportunity on either side.

There weren’t quite cries of ‘get George on!’, but you could feel the sense of expectation around the Gardens as fans waited for the first appearance of their new Wales wing.

That was to come later, but in the meantime Saints were starting to open up, with only hard hands from GJ van Velze preventing what would have been a picture-book try.

Luther Burrell, who had a big impact in the win at Bedford seven days earlier, was trying to conduct operations in midfield as his side looked to dictate proceedings.

But there was a subdued atmosphere around the ground as the team struggled to get into their stride during a slow and scoreless first 30 minutes.

Edinburgh soon got the scoreboard moving through Greig Laidlaw’s penalty, prompting the Saints fans to find their voices in a bid to get the men in green, black and gold going.

And just after the break they finally had something to shout about as Jamie Elliott’s burst inside freed Pisi to step on the gas and touch down.

Myler added the extras and Saints had the lead and something to build on in what had, to that point, been a lethargic encounter.

But the stodgy nature of the game continued, with little free-flowing rugby from players still finding their feet ahead of the new season.

Edinburgh cut Saints’ lead to one point as Laidlaw easily slotted his second penalty of the night and the RaboDirect PRO12 outfit were really making their hosts work for the win.

But Jim Mallinder had a couple of trump cards up his sleeve and he introduced them with 18 minutes to go: Corbisiero and North making their Gardens debuts.

The presence of the Lions drew a roar of approval from the crowd and spraked the team into life, as a penalty was won in enemy territory almost immediately.

Myler landed it to put Saints 10-6 up and North soon had the tryline in his sights, being stopped at the last but winning a penalty in the process.

The home side, completely revitalised by the replacements, didn’t have to wait long for a try as Dowson dotted down, sealing the score with his trademark celebration of kissing the ball.

Myler made the conversion and was soon replaced by young fly-half Olver, who kept his nerve to add the extras to Dowson’s second try of the night.

Saints: Foden (Wilson 40); K Pisi (Collins 62), G Pisi (Diggin 66), Burrell (Stephenson 62), Elliott (North 62); Myler (Olver 75), Dickson (Glynn 75); A Waller, Haywood (McMillan 64), Mercey (Denman 51); Lawes (DIckinson 62), Day (Clark 75); Clark (Nutley 62), Wood (c) (Craig 47), van Velze (Dowson 42).

Edinburgh: Tonks; Fife, De Luca, Scott, Jones; Francis, Laidlaw (c); Dickinson, Ford, Nel; Gilchrist, van der Westhuizen; Cox, Grant, Denton.

Replacements: Niven, Lutui, Cross, Atkins, Gilchrist, Watson, Basilaia, Hidalgo-Clyne, Leonard, Atiga, Cuthbert.