EDINBURGH closed the gap on the top three in Conference B with a good win in trying conditions. The Kings may not be the toughest opposition Richard Cockerill’s side will meet this season, but this was a professional job nonetheless, with five tries producing five points to cut the gap on third-placed Ulster to three points.
The Irish province have the chance to stretch their lead again when they visit Leinster this afternoon, and remain strong favourites to get into the championship play-offs ahead of the Scots. Even so, every result like this one strengthens Edinburgh’s chances of at least qualifying for the Champions Cup play-off by holding on to fourth place, and confirms the impression that the team has a strong sense of direction under Cockerill.
Mark Bennett was named man of the match on his debut, but it was Blair Kinghorn who again stood out for the quality of his attacking forays. The full-back scored the second try after Grant Gilchrist had got the first, and Duhan van der Merwe, Cammy Fenton and Dougie Fife also touched down.
“It was a good, workmanlike win,” Cockerill said. “Thankfully, we’re getting to a position where we expect performances like that. I’m pleased with the effort as the conditions were horrible.
“To score five tries is really pleasing. We move on and get into the bigger games to push us up the league.”
The dank and dismal conditions were around 20 degrees colder than the Kings’ hometown of Port Elizabeth, but they settled well and should have taken a deserved 10th-minute lead only for Kurt Coleman to send his penalty wide of goal. Having shown nothing in attack up to that point, Edinburgh then steadily got the upper hand, and twice came close to the South Africans’ line only to lose the ball forward. Their pressure eventually paid off midway through the half, when Jaco van der Walt was on target with a penalty from 30 metres out.
As Edinburgh’s attacks became more concerted, Kinghorn proved, as usual, to be the most incisive attacker ball in hand, while Hamish Watson proved the hardest to put down. Bennett also began to look dangerous, but the try when it did come after 27 minutes was produced by the footballing skills of Gilchrist. The lock first charged down an attempted clearance from Rudi van Rooyen, then booted the ball past the scrum-half before winning the race to touch down.
Van der Walt failed with that conversion, but successfully added the two points when his team got their second try a few minutes later. Kinghorn began and finished the move, breaking into Kings territory then passing to Chris Dean, on as a substitute after Phil Burleigh had limped off. Dean kicked ahead, full-back Ntabeni Dukisa slid in but could only deflect the ball infield, and Kinghorn was there to finish off easily.
A 15-0 lead at the interval was a satisfactory return from a first half that had got better as it went on, and although the Kings enjoyed a fair amount of possession in the early stages of the second, their inaccurate kicking for touch continued to hamper their efforts. Van der Walt eased the home side further in front with a 50th-minute penalty, then provided the assist eight minutes later with a long pass to the left which gave Van der Merwe a simple score after Stuart McInally and Jordan Lay had done the hard yards. The stand-off then brought up the quarter-century with his conversion.
Edinburgh had the bonus point in their sights, and although conditions worsened in the last 15 minutes, with a sweeping hailstorm making handling even harder than it had been, they got it with 10 minutes to spare. A penalty to touch was securely thrown in by substitute hooker Fenton, and he got on the back of a driving maul which eventually crashed over the line.
Dukisa claimed a very minor consolation for the Kings with a converted try five minutes from time after the defence had failed to deal with a grubber kick close to the left touchline. Edinburgh would not allow their visitors to have the last word, however, and Fife grabbed their fifth try in the final minute after Dukisa fumbled on his own line.
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; D Fife, M Bennett, P Burleigh, D van der Merwe; J van der Walt, N Fowles; J Lay, S McInally, M McCallum, B Toolis, G Gilchrist, M Bradbury, H Watson, C du Preez. Substitutes: C Fenton, M Shields, E Millar-Mills, F McKenzie, V Mata, S Kennedy, C Dean, L Carmichael.
Southern Kings: N Dukisa; Y Penxe, B Klaasen, M du Toit, A Bock; K Coleman, R van Rooyen; S Ferreira, S Coetzee, P Scholtz, J van Vuuren, D van Schalkwyk, B Eitel, M Burger, R Lerm. Substitutes: T Balekile, M Dreyer, R de Klerk, L Welemu, F Ngoza, R Gouws, H Klaasen, M Banda.
Scorers: Edinburgh: Tries: Gilchrist, Kinghorn, Van der Merwe, Fenton, Fife. Cons: Van der Walt 3. Pens: Van der Walt 2.
Southern Kings: Try: Dukisa. Con: Dukisa.
Scoring sequence: 3-0, 8-0, 13-0, 15-0 half-time, 18-0, 23-0, 25-0, 30-0, 32-0, 32-5, 32-7, 37-7.
Referee: L Linton (Scotland).