Lions v Edinburgh: frustration as visitors come up short in Johannesburg

Blair Kinghorn's disallowed try at start of second half is swing moment

Blair Kinghorn's disallowed try was a swing moment. Image courtesy: Edinburgh Rugby
Blair Kinghorn's disallowed try was a swing moment. Image courtesy: Edinburgh Rugby

Emirates Lions 15

Edinburgh 9

THIS felt like one that got away for Edinburgh head coach Mike Blair, after his team pushed Lions hard but came up short. The head coach said afterwards that the disallowing of Blair Kinghorn’s try 10 minutes into the second half was a swing moment, but added that he had no complaints about the decision.

“We believe we had managed the game really well up until that stage and that would have given us a nice buffer,” he reflected. “We lost a little bit of momentum after that. But I do think it was the right decision. It shouldn’t have been a try.

“We’ve spoken a little bit about it being a missed opportunity. We thought we played some decent stuff, but we weren’t quite on our game tonight. When you drop off even by five per cent, a quality team like the Lions will make you pay. They were really dangerous on turnover attack.”


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Edinburgh started brightly – kicking smartly to dictate the shape and tempo of the match during those early stages– and they snatched the lead on 11 minutes when full-back Henry Immelman took advantage of the thin air in Johannesburg by collecting a Lions goal-line drop-out and launching a monstrous drop-goal from halfway which cleared the crossbar with about 15-metres to spare.

Jordan Hendrikse had a chance to cancel that lead as a cagey first quarter came to an end, but his long-range penalty, awarded against Magnus Bradbury for closing the gap at a line-out, sailed to the right of the posts.

There was then an unnecessary hold-up of about two and a half as Ben Crouse, the TMO, tried and failed to find some evidence of foul play, which nobody on the pitch seemed to have noticed. Player safety is a big issue, and rightly so. The professional game is so physical that vigilance against recklessness is vital. But it feels at times like match officials are too quick to put themselves in the middle of the drama when it really isn’t required. What is wrong with going back to an incident which has not material impact on the game after the final whistle and handing out appropriate sanctions when there is time to properly consider the evidence?

“I felt the TMO was particularly eagle-eyed on one side of the game,” suggested Blair. “I’m always conscious of saying something like this because I don’t want it to be the story, but I felt like they spent a lot of time looking for issues that we’d done. They spent about three minutes trying to find a high tackle that was made when our players was on his knees.

‘There were other ones as well where we sifted through footage for ages trying to look at things. We had a couple of clear-cut headshots and a no-arms tackle which weren’t looked at.

“But I don’t want that to be the story. We got the rub of the green in different ways last week against the Sharks. So things do go in swings and roundabouts at times. We just needed to be a little bit more clinical and we could have won this game.”


Not long after play finally resumed, Emiliano Boffelli stretched Edinburgh’s lead to six points after Francke Horn was penalised for a no-arms tackle on Pierre Schoeman, only for Lions to strike back almost immediately with the game’s opening try, created by a short-side snipe by scrum-half Morne van den Berg which was carried on by Edwill van der Merwe before Hendrikse finished off.

The home stand-off could not, however, add the conversion to his own try, which meant Edinburgh retained a single-point lead.

Another break from van den Berg opened Edinburgh up with three minutes left in the first half, but he put too much on his chip over the last man and it bounced on the crossbar before harmlessly disappearing over the dead-ball line. A pass to a support runner might have been the better option.


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Edinburgh thought they had landed a potentially decisive blow 10 minutes into the second half when the hot-stepping, loose-limbed Blair Kinghorn started and finished a sweeping attack, but the TMO identified a knock-on by Ben Vellacott in the middle of the move and the score was chalked off.

Instead, the visitors almost immediately found themselves reduced to to 14-men when Bradbury carelessly but not deliberately collided with Horn off the ball and was sanctioned with a yellow-card, and Lions capitalised instantly though an Emannuel Tshituka try from a powerful surge from a line-out drive. Interestingly, the TMO didn’t get involved in this one.

Luan de Bruin announced his arrival off the bench as the clock ticked past the hour mark by winning a jackaling penalty, and Boffelli nailed the kick at goal to bring it back to a three-point game.

But then a loose offload from Kinghorn was hacked ahead, sending Darcy Graham scampering back into the corner to tidy up, and although he initially did well to escape the danger-zone, he was then penalised for holding onto the ball on the deck later in the move, and Hendrikse had no problem this time bisecting the posts.

As the game moved into the final 10 minutes, Edinburgh started to build momentum leading to Mark Bennett bumping and weaving his way over the line, but he couldn’t get the ball down.

Edinburgh came again, but a penalty won by Emannuel Tshituka over the tackled Ben Muncaster allowed Lions to kick for touch, and Boffelli was left incandescent when he was judged to have knocked the ball when leaping to slap Hendrikse clearance back into play.

Edinburgh had to make do with a losing bonus point, meaning they have collected five points from a possible 10 during their mini-tour of South Africa, leaving  them well-placed in the race to finish fourth in the United Rugby Championship table and therefore secure a home play-off draw.

“If you said before the trip, it’s not that we’d have taken because then you’re not being ambitious enough, but five points isn’t bad,” shrugged Blair. “It still keeps us in the hunt. This is a tough league and South Africa is an extremely tough place to come and play rugby.   But we can build on what we’ve done here. There’s plenty left in the season.”


Teams –

Lions: Q Horn; R Maxwane (T van Wyk 75), W Simelane, M Rass, E van der Merwe (A Warner, 65); J Hendrikse, M van den Berg; J Smith (S Sithole 66), P Botha (M Brandon 75), C Sadie (A Ntlabakanye 34), R Schoeman (R Venter 64), R Nothnagel, F Horn, E Tshituka, V Tshituka ( S Sangweni 69).

Edinburgh:  H Immelman (J van der Walt 65); D Graham, M Bennett, J Lang (M Currie 71), E Boffelli; B Kinghorn, B Vellacott (C Shiel 61); P Schoeman (B Venter 61), S McInally (D Cherry 44), W Nel (L de Bruin 61), P Phillips (G Young 56), G Gilchrist, M Bradbury, H Watson (C Boyle 44), B Muncaster.

Referee: Gianluca Gnecchi (FIR)


Scorers –

Lions: Try: Hendrikse, E Tshituka; Con: Hendrikse; Pen: Hendrikse

Edinburgh: Pen: Boffelli 2; DG: Immelman.

Scoring sequence (Lions first): 0-3; 0-6; 5-6 (h-t) 10-6; 12-6; 12-9; 15-9.


Yellow cards –

Edinburgh: Bradbury (50mins)

Glasgow v Zebre: Matthews hat-trick is the highlight of easy Warriors win

About David Barnes 3288 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. I think Blairs downplaying the 5 points they’ve taken on the tour. Taking on heat, humidity, high altitude and as the fellow posters have alluded to, home advantage TMO’s and AR’s. I thought the ref was OK and Edinburgh probably didn’t create enough to win but its amazing how the SARU ref support team pore over of away incidents and give 50/50 calls to the home team. The Stormers v Ulster game and the match defining moment being a classic example where they’ve intervened. In boxing terms in South Africa, you better knock the opponent out as you’ll never win on a points decision.

  2. Not sure Edinburgh did enough to deserve more from the game, although with a decent rub of the green, they could have. What I’m in no doubt about is the poor officiating, especially by the ARs and the TMO. Actually thought the referee wasn’t too bad, but the rest seemed to be making up the rules as they went along, offside apparently nonexistent when wearing a lions jersey, whereas nonexistent foul play from Edinburgh had to be examined at length and from every possible angle. Farcical.

  3. Not sure Edinburgh did enough to deserve more from the game, although with a decent rub of the green, they could have. What I’m in no doubt about is the poor officiating, especially by the ARs and the TMO. Actually thought the referee wasn’t too bad, but the rest seemed to be making up the rules as they went along, offside apparently nonexistent when wearing a lions jersey, whereas nonexistent foul play from Edinburgh had to be examined at length and from every possible angle. Farcical.

  4. Edinburgh, fully stocked with Scottish internationals and their enormous South African contingent, still could not complete against the weakest of the South African sides. The Lions squad is a hastily assembled rag tag bunch of inexperienced youngsters and a sprinkling of over the hill stalwarts. Their team is almost unrecognisable from just a season ago, such has been level of overseas poaching of our homegrown talent. Indeed, the vultures are already circling for some of our outstanding youngsters, transfer rumours are already arising overJordan Hendrikse, Burger Odendaal and Vincent Tshituka, to name just a few. The latter two putting in man of the match performances over the last few rounds.

    No wonder the stadiums are empty, fans want to see continuity in their squads, seeing their players develop and improve over a number of seasons, rather than just being feeder clubs for the deeper pocketed Uk, Ireland, French and Japanese clubs.

    Looks like Edinburgh may need to buy a few more Saffas in order to complete.

  5. Lions have some gigantic guys.
    Edinburgh played well enough and as Blair said lacked a wee bit luck.
    Muncater looked like he sealed his place on the summer tour with an excellent shift. Bennett almost won the game at the end but it wasn’t to be.
    Kinghorn was a curates egg, some nice running and good kicking from hand but some really really loose passes too.
    Augers well that Edinburgh and their quest for a home play off.
    Blair would’ve taken 5 points.

  6. Weird that head on head tackle isn’t a yellow? Where does it say anything in the law about the tackler being passive is therefore ok.

    Actually felt Edinburgh could have won the game.

    Kinghorn played pretty good, still needs to lose the really wild passes, but his ability to make breaks is excellent.

    Sadly we could drop to 7th or 8th when the SA teams play their games in hand.

  7. Lets start with the TMO – I have never seen such a bizarre situation where the TMO called a halt and then couldn’t actually find the incident he was looking for and the ref told him that we needed to get on with the game. He was also one eyed to the extreme – calling out incidents against Edinburgh that the ref then generally had to disagree with.

    On to the game – I thought Edinburgh were a bit subdued and played a pretty conservative game. I assume the altitude dictated this. i though the harder ground might have suited Edinburgh playing their high tempo game but they seemed to want to play a limited game with a lot of box kicking. Unfortunately both on their kicks and the Lions kicks it was the Lions who often recovered the ball and so Edinburgh seemed to struggle for the ball at time. There was little quick ball – often because the Edinburgh players were not in position so the scrum half had to wait an eternity before passing. There wasn’t much free flowing rugby from Edinburgh and Graham and Boffeli rarely got the ball. Defensively they were pretty solid and I suppose if Bennet had got the ball down when held over the line they might have sneaked a win.

    The next 3 weeks is going to be critical and the top 3 SA teams could all overtake Edinburgh with a game in hand. Glasgows trip at the end of April will define the play offs for both Edinburgh and Glasgow as they play the Bulls and Stormers. It would be some achievement if they were to get a win from either of these.


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