Challenge Cup: Sharks v Edinburgh: visitors fall at quarter-final stage

Beaten head coach Sean Everitt bemoans killer penalty count

Ben Healy kicked 15 points for Edinburgh against the Sharks. Image: © Craig Watson -
Ben Healy kicked 15 points for Edinburgh against the Sharks. Image: © Craig Watson -

Sharks 36

Edinburgh 30

EDINBURGH bowed out of the European Challenge Cup at the quarter-final stage after succumbing to a second half show of power from Hollywoodbets Sharks in hot conditions at Kings Park, Durban. Sharks will now face Clermont Auvergne at the Stoop in London with a place in the final at Tottenham Stadium up for grabs.

Edinburgh coach Sean Everitt was left ruing a second half effort in which his players paid the price for a loss of discipline.

“I thought we handled the set-piece battle well in the first half”, he said. “We struggled a little bit with the aerial battle in the first 15 minutes of the game then got int the game nicely through winning some of those battles. So, yeah, at half-time we were obviously confident that we could pull it through.

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“Then the set-piece came under the pump and we gave away penalties. I think the penalty count in the second half was 8-1 and that tells a story.”

However, Everitt saw enough to believe that a top four URC finish and a home play-off is still possible if his men can focus on discipline, particularly restricting the penalty count to single figures.

“There’s a lot of positives we can take from this game”, he added. “It’s never easy travelling away so that gives us extra motivation for the remaining five games.”

The visitors started well and deservedly got their noses in front when Ben Healy stroked over a penalty following an offence at the breakdown.

Sharks paid their first visit to Edinburgh territory after six minutes and a scrum offered a chance to exhibit the power of the home pack, shunting the Scots backwards. However, Edinburgh managed to clear the danger at the subsequent line-out.

The pressure continued and Wes Goosen was forced to carry over, handing Sharks another scrum. Again Edinburgh held firm, but a penalty handed Siya Masuku what looked like a straightforward three pointer. However, from in front of the posts, the stand-off tugged his kick wide, his only miss in an impressive performance off the tee.

Edinburgh made the most of that let-off when a breakout ended with Bill Mata forcing a penalty, and Healy again banged over the resulting kick to double his team’s scoreboard advantage.

The Sharks riposte came in the form of a chip and chase by Makazole Mapimpi. The ball bounced kindly for the winger who flipped the ball deftly inside to Lukhanyo Am to finish off. Masuku was on target with the kick to edge his side into the lead.

Healy despatched Edinburgh’s next penalty into touch and they asked some difficult questions of the home defence. Ewan Ashman tapped and went following another Sharks offence, but he was held up by Eben Etzebeth and the gap remained at a point entering the second quarter.

The hosts drew clear with a second try that showcased their ability to attack at pace. Aphelele Fassi raced at the Edinburgh defence and moved the ball via Masuku, Bongi Mbonambi, Werner Kok and Etzebeth to James Venter, who plunged over in the corner. Masuku again converted.

Etzebeth’s next involvement was as the recipient of a yellow card after the referee lost patience with the mounting Sharks crime count. Edinburgh took advantage instantly when Pierre Schoeman dummied and twisted his way over from close range. Healy’s conversion left the deficit at a single point.

And the lead changed hands when the final play of the half yielded a penalty which Healy thumped between the uprights to leave Edinburgh two points ahead at the break.



Sharks came out firing for the second period and a series of penalties provided the opportunity for Masuku to add three points to the home side’s haul and edge them in front once more. Another Edinburgh offence ensured Sharks were able to maintain the pressure. Kok crossed the whitewash but the final pass was forward, so the hosts reverted to Masuku’s boot for three more points with just under half an hour to play.

The visitors were struggling to stay in the game, and their task took on another dimension when Sharks bagged a third try, this time throughMbonambi who powered through a gap and dived over. Masuku’s conversion took the lead into double figures.

Edinburgh’s efforts to fight back foundered on an offside decision at an attacking line-out. And Sharks celebrated that escape when Masuku struck another penalty. That left Edinburgh needing two converted tries to restore parity. And the job became an even taller order when Masuku slotted another kick.

The visitors seized a lifeline when Hamish Watson applied the final touch after a well-worked lineout, and Healy added the extras to leave a ten-point deficit.

However, any hopes that the score might spark a late rally were extinguished when replacement kicker Curwin Bosch steered a penalty between the sticks, meaning a late touchdown by Dave Cherry, converted by Healy, was little consolation for Everitt’s men.


Teams –

Hollywoodbets Sharks: A Fassi; W Kok, L Am, E Hooker (F Venter 69) , M Mapimpi; S Masuku (C Bosch 73), J Hendrikse (G Williams 64); O Nche (N Mchunu 73), B Mbonambi (D Jooste 57), V Koch (H Jacobs 73), E Etzebeth, E van Heerden (C Rahl 73), J Venter (L Labuschagne 37), V Tshituka, Pi Buthelezi.

Edinburgh: W Goosen; J Henry (C Dean 69), M Bennett (J Lang 64), M Currie, D van der Merwe; B Healy, B Vellacott co-© (A Price 55); P Schoeman (B Venter 61), E Ashman (D Cherry 55), W Nel (D Rae 67), S Skinner, G Gilchrist co-© (J Hodgson 61), J Ritchie, H Watson, V Mata (L Crosbie 55).

Referee: M Carley (Eng)


Scorers –

Sharks: Tries: Am, Venter, Mbonambi; Cons: Masuku 3; Pens: Masuku 4, Bosch.

Edinburgh: Tries: Schoeman, Watson, Cherry; Cons: Healy 3; Pens: Healy 3.

Scoring sequence (Sharks first): 0-3; 0-6; 5-6; 7-6; 12-6; 14-6; 14-11; 14-13; 14-16 (h-t) 17-16; 20-16, 25-16, 27-16, 30-16, 33-16, 33-21, 33-23, 36-23, 36-28, 36-30.


Yellow cards:

Sharks: Etzenbeth (30 mins)

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About Colin Renton 294 Articles
Colin has been a freelance writer on various subjects for more than 20 years. He covers rugby at all levels but is particularly passionate about the game at grass roots. As a fluent French speaker, he has a keen interest in rugby in France and for many years has reported on the careers of Scots who have moved across the Channel. He appreciates high quality, engaging writing that is thought provoking, and hopes that some of his work fits that bill!


  1. Blair Kinghorn had a wonderful game earlier today. scored tries and got all his kicks. This could be very good for Scotland long term, he was clearly enjoying his rugby. Could also be picking up silverware in a few weeks,
    Slightly off topic, has anyone heard of an update on Russell’s injury?

    • yep I saw the game and he had a great game. He kicked everything and they weren’t all in front of the posts. Clearly been getting coached on his technique because he never did it with Edinburgh. I also notice thet he’s running hard into contact when he runs the ball back from fun back – usually takes a couple of tacklers with him and gets them on the front foot for the next phase. Again he used to flop into contact a bit at Edinburgh so Toulouse have clearly been getting him working on his physicality. All good for Scotland and shows the benefit of some of our guys playing in a different environment.

      • Good point(s) Ross I noted BKs added physicality.
        I’ve always thought BK was a great broken field runner but not to be trusted, I’m more than happy to have my opinion changed

    • I watched Kinghorn’s latest excellent performance in France remembering the “expert” here who told us that he would spend the season as Ramos’s deputy!

  2. Edinburgh do have the players, just not the long term committment to a style that makes those players better. This has been, IMHO, the key to Glasgow’s success: the way they have played since Townsend has made players much better. Average players became very good and good players (Hogg, Russell etc) became great. Glasgow’s focus on relentless speed made players fitter, more mentally game-agile and more consistently aggressive. The players seem to love it too! Edinburgh have dipped in and out of this approach but when things have not gone well have reverted to a more cautious approach which might briefly steady things but, long term, does not develop players to the level they need to be at. It might have been easier for Townsend to initiate this at a time when defences had yet to become so stingy but somehow Edinburgh need a coaching team/club mentality like Glasgow.

  3. Major changed needed in the squad but with so much of budget tied up in flankers and back 3 it’s unlikely to be enough.
    Edinburgh not getting any value some of those players either through injury or a lack of interest.
    Duhan totally disinterested today, yeh game plan involved chasing kicks and the need to look for work but compare that to Mapimbi who was everywhere, chasing kicks, looking for work and making an impact in defence. And you can’t blame game plans as Skarks kicked just as much as Edinburgh did.

  4. I think we need to cut out the ‘ton of internationals’ in the Edinburgh side talk.

    How many are genuine starters internationally when everyone is fit right now? – it is pretty easy to make the leap from Professional to at least getting 1 cap once you’ve made the difficult journey to pro level simply due to a lack of options to pick from due to having 2 clubs.

    Schoeman – Gilchrist (Maybe) – Crosbie (Maybe) – Mata – Van Der Merwe

    3 definite starters + Gilchrist & Crosbie who have tough opposition from Gray/Cummings & Christie/Darge.

    This is not a star studded side and they are lacking powerful ball carriers (to many traditional jackler flankers) and Centres who have offer little gainline/creative midfield options – this factors out so much of the attacking prowess in the back 3.

    Not much Everitt can do at the moment – needs to assemble a more balanced squad. Top 8 in URC is success this season

    • I take your point but that pack with the exception of Mata have all played in a Scotland shirt in the last 2 years. In fact 5 of them were in match day 23’s in this years 6 Nations and thats not including Crosbie or Nel so they are not 1 or 2 cap internationals like Hodgson. Your comments regards the backs and lack of powerful ball carriers I agree with. We certainly need some more players to advance.

  5. Grant Gilchrist not passing was the perfect example of why we remain so bad at club and international level

  6. If we are honest no Edinburgh supporter thought we would win this one. For all the internationals on display in the pack we seldom dominate as our internationals lack power and dynamism. Add that to average backs and no Boffelli and Graham we are lacking penetration.
    This side should be performing better than it does (sounds like Scotland) but I fear a top 8 in URC will be beyond this squad

  7. Better/closer than last time against Sharks I guess. Massive power in the front row for Sharks set them up for the win. Some good moments for Edinburgh but they’re looking increasingly to me like an ageing team that needs a rebuild over the summer.

  8. Edinburgh appear weak and flaky. As Ross said above they seem like Scotland in microcosm. Like Scotland, they do a most of their talking off the pitch to the point it gets delusional. This week’s exhibit A was Grant Gilchrist (a grand player) talking about winning silverware as if Edinburgh are quite close to it. This *+!* is just not realistic and provides easy targets for their better opposition to feed off.

  9. At half time I thought we were definitely in with a chance. We had managed the game pretty well and had a fair amount of territory and a few chances missed. The only area we struggled was the scrum where we were under pressure. In the first 30 minutes of the second half we were never in the game and they just ground us down with their power game and took all the penalties on offer. The penalty count of 8-1 tells a story – sound familiar from Scotland games. We never looked like winning and the 2 late tries both from line out mauls makes it look closer than it was.

    Overall when you consider this was an all international pack we had out it was a bit disappointing and the Sharks were just a bit better in terms of pure physicality all round the park and more cutting edge in the backs. Its telling that all our tries were close range forward scores, not once did our backs look like scoring. I can remember a couple of line breaks that came to nothing. There were also a couple of penalty advantages that we had close to their line and we tried to move it wide and gave interceptions away when we could have scored with a bit more nous.

    I just watched some of the Clermont/Ulster and Bordeaux/Harlequins games – fast paced, high intensity flowing rugby with endless line breaks, overlaps and offloads – great to watch. Nothing like watching Edinburgh who continue to serve up turgid fare with hardly any flowing rugby. Back play remains our problem and I really dont see any improvement we simply cant put people in space and look so wooden compared to so many other sides. Even big Duane was poor today – hardly got the ball in space and when he did he generally lost it in contact. Will be a struggle to make top 8 in the URC at this rate.

    • Sharks played a very similar game plan than Edinburgh today and I wouldn’t call them turgid, they just have the players to pull it off.
      Both team kicked the leather off it today, sharks were just able to physically dominate.
      Half time score showed the tactics were probably right, probably should have kicked 2 more pens, we just could keep the level of intensity up.
      They can’t keep playing like Sharks with the squad they have.
      Duhan absolutely shown up by Mapimpi today, work rate and Rugby IQ wins 9 times outta 10.

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