Southern Kings 13
DAVID BARNES @ Murrayfield
ON a bizarre night at Murrayfield, Edinburgh ultimately ran out as nine tries to two winners to climb to the summit of the PRO14 Conference B table – but were still left feeling fairly unsatisfied with their night’s work.
The fact that the visitors were reduced to 14 men for over an hour, then to 13 men for about 30 minutes, and ultimately to 12 men during the final 10 minutes, greatly boosted the home team’s chances – but they struggled to really click as an attacking force until that final period when their impressively resilient opponents finally ran out of steam.
“It was a bizarre game with a red-card, then uncontested scrums and a guy in the bin – so it was as daft as I’ve seen really,” reflected Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill. “We’ll take the points, and keep collecting as many as we can as often as we can.
“We knew it was going to be hard to raise our game emotionally from the last couple of weeks, and I think it proved so because we didn’t play well in that first half at all, but I don’t think we’ll get too hung up on it. It is a case of: job done, now move on.
“They came and worked hard and were a difficult side to break down, and we were inaccurate and not good enough at times – but every week can’t be your biggest game. So, you take the five points and look ahead to what will be a massive game for us next week.”
Edinburgh are in Challenge Cup action next Saturday, taking on Bordeaux Begles, who currently lead the French Top 14.
The visitors drew first blood when stand-off JT Jackson sent a neat kick into the in-goal area for left winger Erich Cronje to get the downward pressure but then suffered a crippling blow when tight-head prop Pieter Scholtz was sent off after his forearm fend made contact with John Barclay’s chin/neck area.
Edinburgh took immediate advantage by kicking the penalty to the corner and then driving hooker Mike Willemse over the line, with Jaco van der Walt converting from wide on the left.
A few minutes later, Matt Scott delivered what looked certain to be a scoring pass for Barclay, but the flanker – perhaps still feeling the effects of his run-in with Scholtz – fumbled the ball with the line at his mercy.
It is to the Kings’ credit that they kept battling. Jackson had one long-range offside penalty effort to recapture the lead which floated to the right of the posts, but he was bang on the money when Lewis Carmichael was pinged right in front of the posts on 25 minutes for not rolling away, which put the visitors back into the lead.
Edinburgh No 8 Mike Haining, running off van der Walt, pierced the first line of defence then fed Willemse, but again the final offload failed to go to hand. However, the hosts kept the pressure on and a few minutes later Duhan van der Merwe came off his wing to swoop outside four tacklers on his way to scoring in the opposite corner.
When Blair Kinghorn, Barclay and Eroni Sau combined up the right touchline to send Scott streaking home for try number three on 34 minutes, it felt like the floodgates had opened, but Edinburgh then allowed themselves to be knocked off their stride.
Referee Joy Neville had a long old look at the TMO to decide if Schalk Ferreira had led with the elbow in a collision with Haining. She eventually decided that the collision had been head-on-head so awarded a hands in ruck penalty to the Kings – and Haining was still making his way to the touchline with blood pouring from his bonce as Jackson was darting in for a try against a fairly distracted home defence.
The interval came at just the right time for Cockerill’s men and they started the second half in style when slick hands sent James Johnstone – who was making his first league start of the season – over for the bonus-point try.
There was then another long and confused hold-up when an injury to De-Jay Terblance, who had taken over at tight-head for Scholtz, meant that the scrums had to go uncontested. To ensure that Edinburgh didn’t lose their advantage, the Kings then had to take off another player, with flanker Thembelani Bholi being sacrificed – making it 15 versus 13.
Edinburgh began to really build the pressure. Simon Berghan thought he had found a way over on 63 minutes, but the score was belatedly chalked off for a knock-on during the build-up.
The dam finally broke when Kings collapsed a maul as it thundered towards the line, prompting a penalty try and a yellow-card for Aston Fortuin.
Kings were now down to 12 men and Edinburgh made hay, with Sau, Dave Cherry, Charlie Shiel and Mark Bennett all crossing the whitewash before the end.
Edinburgh Rugby: B Kinghorn; E Sau, J Johnstone, M Scott, D van der Merwe (M Bennett 63); J van der Walt, H Pyrgos (C Shiel 63); J Bhatti (P Schoeman 51), M Willemse (D Cherry 59), W Nel (S Berghan 51), L Carmichael, G Gilchrist (B Toolis 69), M Bradbury, J Barclay, N Haining (L Crosbie 37).
Southern Kings: C Winnaar; Y Penxe (A Loubser 57), S Sithole (D Terblanche 19, A van Rooyen 54), H Mnisi (B Pretorius 46), E Cronje; J Jackson, S Ungerer (T Maree 56); S Ferreira (X Vos 40), J du Toit, P Scholtz, J Sexton (J Astle 60), A Fortuin, R Lerm, T Bholi, E Louw.
Referee: J Neville
Edinburgh: Tries: Willemse, van der Merwe, Scott, Johnstone, Penalty Try; Sau, Cherry, Shiel; Con: van der Walt 7.
Southern Kings: Tries: Cronje Jackson; Pen: Jackson.
Scoring sequence (Edinburgh first): 0-5; 5-5; 7-5; 7-8; 12-8; 17-8; 19-8; 19-13 (h-t) 24-13; 26-13; 33-13; 38-13; 40-13; 45-13; 47-13; 52-13; 54-13; 59-13; 61-13.
Yellow cards –
Southern Kings: Fortuin.
Red cards –
Southern Kings: Scholtz