Stormers v Edinburgh: South Africans prove too strong for Mike Blair’s battlers

Tries by Cherry and Pyrgos are not enough against the attacking invention of the home team

Dave Cherry scored the first of Edinburgh's two tries versus Stormers. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Dave Cherry scored the first of Edinburgh's two tries versus Stormers. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

Stormers 28

Edinburgh 17

THROUGHOUT this first season under Mike Blair, Edinburgh’s rich promise has been evident. Against the strongest of opponents, however, their inexperience can be all too evident at times, and it certainly was at the DHL Stadium in Cape Town as they lost this URC quarter-final.

They were level at the break, and were still just about in contention going into the frantic few final minutes. Their defence was excellent for the most part, while in attack players such as Emiliano Boffelli and Mark Bennett again showed just how dangerous they can be given half a chance.

But the Stormers were even more dangerous in offence, and what is more Edinburgh made it easy for them at times with a couple of avoidable errors, notably the loose offload from Blair Kinghorn which presented the South Africans with a simple try after just a couple of minutes. Even so, while there are flaws in Edinburgh’s make-up which will need to be ironed out before they can make the step up from play-off qualifiers to title contenders, they and their head coach have every right to be pleased with the progress they have made in relatively short order.


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“First of all, I’m really proud of the effort that our guys put in,” Blair said after the three-tries-to-two defeat. “This is not an easy place to come and play a quarter-final in South Africa against a top-quality team. I thought we acquitted ourselves pretty well. A couple of moments in there that had they swung the other way, it would have gone down to the last five minutes. 

“We were still in the game with five minutes to go. Whether we deserved to be I’m not too sure, but we put enough really positive stuff out there to look forward to next season with pride.

“To be in a situation like that against a quality team away from home is pleasing. But there’s obviously a little bit of disappointment in there as well. We need to get better, but that foundation of heart, spirit and playing for the jersey was certainly in evidence.” 

The Stormers’ opening score was initiated by a break from loose forward Hacjivah Dayimani, who was stopped just short of the line when Kinghorn intercepted an attempted pass. But then the Edinburgh stand-off failed to find Chris Dean with an offload behind his own line, and Warrick Gelant seized on the loose ball to touch down. Manie Libbok converted.

Boffelli got Edinburgh off the mark with a penalty after Stormers captain Steven Kitshoff offended. But after Kitshoff himself came close to claiming his side’s second try, Edinburgh gave away a penalty and Libbok scored via an upright to take his team’s tally to 10.

The visitors had another chance to go for goal minutes later when the Stormers offended again, but this time they went for touch and were rewarded for their enterprise when Dave Cherry finished off from the line-out drive. Boffelli converted to draw the teams level again with quarter of an hour played.

The Stormers continued to present more of a threat in open play, but at times they were too impatient when trying to force an opening. After half an hour they looked sure to regain the lead when Gelant passed off the ground to Herschel Jantjies just yards from the line, but Darcy Graham got back to intercept.

Then Edinburgh suffered a big blow when No 8 Magnus Bradbury was sent to the sin-bin for a high tackle on his opposite number Evan Roos. It was a marginal call, but replays showed it was a correct one.

The 14 men ran down the clock well in what was left of the first half, and kept up the sensible, disciplined approach in the early minutes of the second. But then, just as Bradbury was itching to get back on to the pitch, the Stormers struck from deep inside their own half. 

Six or seven of them were involved in the play, stretching the Scots defence to breaking point, and in the end it was Ruhan Nel who touched down for the try after Seabelo Senatla provided the scoring pass. Libbok added the two points again, and Edinburgh knew they had an uphill battle on their hands.

 

A collapsed scrum was another warning sign for the visitors, and although nothing came from that award, another offence minutes later was punished by Libbok. That penalty from the stand-off made it 20-10, and the Stormers had one foot in the semi-finals.

Edinburgh needed to start playing more high-risk rugby to have any chance of staging a comeback, but before they came anywhere close to scoring they conceded another try.  A midfield guddle saw several players fail to control the ball, but in the end Roos seized on the loose ball to run in his team’s third touchdown of the afternoon.  Libbok’s hasty conversion attempt went wide, but the Stormers were still more than two full scores ahead.

An immediate reply was needed – and Edinburgh got it when Henry Pyrgos finished off between the posts from a Luke Crosbie break. Boffelli added the two points, and it was game on again at 25-17.

With a dozen minutes left, a third penalty from Libbok stretched his team’s advantage to 11 points. Edinburgh kept pressing in search of a score, and the last few minutes might have become very interesting indeed had Deon Fourie not got back to mark a kick ahead by Boffelli. Once that move was snuffed out the Stormers were able to wind down the clock in relative comfort.

They now go through to a home semi-final against Ulster. Edinburgh just go home, to reflect on both the considerable progress they have made this season, and on the work that remains to be done if they are to keep up their heartening improvement.

 

Teams –

Stormers: W Gelant; S Senatla, R Nel, R Pretorius (S Mngomezulu 4, G Masimla 70), L Zas; M Libbok, H Jantjies; S  Kitshoff (captain, B Harris 74), J Kotze (A Venter 63), F Malherbe (N Fouche 66), S Moerat (A Smith 68), M Orie, D Fourie (N Xaba 54), H Dayimani (E van Rhyn 73), E Roos. 

Edinburgh: E Boffelli; D Graham, M Bennett, C Dean (J Lang 64), D Hoyland; B Kinghorn, H Pyrgos (C Shiel 69); P Schoeman (H Courtney 78), D Cherry (A McBurney 69), W Nel (L Atalifo 68), J Hodgson (M Sykes 48), G Gilchrist (captain), L Crosbie, H Watson, M Bradbury (B Muncaster 54). Unused substitute: J van der Walt.

Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland).

 

Scorers –

Stormers: Tries: Gelant, Nel, Roos. Cons: Libbok 2. Pens: Libbok 3.

Edinburgh: Tries: Cherry, Pyrgos. Cons: Boffelli 2. Pen: Boffelli.

Scoring sequence (Stormers first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-3; 10-3; 10-8; 10-10 (h-t) 15-10; 17-10; 20-10; 25-10; 25-15; 25-17; 28-17.

 

Yellow cards – 

Edinburgh: Bradbury (35mins).


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About Stuart Bathgate 1131 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.

11 Comments

  1. Blair has managed to get Edinburgh playing some positive and committed rugby. Hopefully he will be able to build on what has been achieved next season. Injuries have not helped the side this year but with the right recruitment like the incoming Skinner more squad depth might help address this. Still do not think BK is a No 10 but he needs to be in the team. I wonder if he could play inside centre (or 2nd 5/8th) ?

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  2. Random musings –
    Crosbie when fit and healthy starts for Scotland.
    BK – very exciting, alas not shaken my not to be trusted feelings
    Really missed the 2 injured SA props
    Venter & Debruin
    Bradbury and Dean playing the best rugby of their careers.
    Very interesting to see who GT selects for summer tour

  3. Edinburgh at least battled. They gave it a good shot unlike their counterparts from Glasgow who were a disgrace! In SA there were solid performances from a number of players including Boffelli (again), Pyrgos, Bradbury and Bennett. There were no solid performances from Glasgow, it was total capitulation. SRU needs to order a cleanout with Coach Wilson, Ryan Wilson and Richie Gray being shown the door.

  4. Boffelli unbelievable under the high ball, Crosbie was awesome, not sure what Kinghorn was thinking but we all do stupid stuff and learn from it. The steal from Graham to prevent the try. Looking forward to seeing how Edinburgh develop next season. Cocker’s hard edge and Blair’s flair are a very attractive combination. Though sometimes we struggle to get the balance right. Would like to see some really positive front 5 additions.

    • I’m afraid Kinghorn’s involvement in the last Stormer’s try was even worse than the first.

      A total misjudgement of the kick, falls on his butt, then makes next to no effort to get back onside to contribute to stopping the resultant try. Shocking.

      Watch the replay back and notice the difference in effort shown by him and Dean to cover.

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  5. Commitment top notch. Perhaps just a little less accurate playing the 100mph loose game theStormers thrived on. A day for the pragmatic and structured approach. If lessons are learned, next season could be one to look forward to.
    A big thanks to the whole squad for making this year such a joy to watch.

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  6. Edinburgh – a joy to watch under Blair’s stewardship, as well as commitment, team ethic, and workrate. The antithesis of my Glasgow….. had to laugh that the Glasgow match report hasn’t made the pages yet…

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  7. Good try lads, that was a worthy effort and let’s hope a sign of even better things to come next season.

  8. A gutsy and spirited performance from Edinburgh and you cant fault the effort and commitment. You always felt they were in the game and after the poor start did well to be level at half time. Even with 15 minutes to go you felt at least they had a chance and posed a threat right to the end. Our defence was pretty good and some good performances – Luke Crosbie was outstanding. We just made a few daft mistakes that led to 2 of their tries and Stormers just a little bit better on the day. A lot to look forward to and build on for next season.

    After watching the shameful Glasgow surrender it was at least a heartening display. (I look forward to reading the Glasgow comments – it won’t be pretty).

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    • I echo comments about certain individuals. Luke Crosbie in return from injury has really made his mark taken his game to another level. Bennett at times tremendous pace and guile going forward Bofelli a gr8 acquisition and Turner strong performance. Team gave it a spirited crack but I feel overall that the squad is not strong enough to take things to the level of the best irish n s african sides

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