URC: Edinburgh fightback falls just short against Sharks

Narrow win for South Africans has taken them ahead of Mike Blair's team and into top half of URC table

Adam McBurney
Edinburgh try-scorer Adam McBurney on the atatck against the Sharks. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

Edinburgh 19

Sharks 22

STUART BATHGATE @ The DAM Health Stadium

EDINBURGH tasted defeat for the first time in 2023 after a run of three wins as the Sharks did just enough to claim a narrow win. The result means the South Africans have now leapfrogged Mike Blair’s side to go into the play-off places in the URC.

Blair’s team fought back from 14-0 down to lead 19-14 at the break, but after the Sharks had retaken the lead, a sustained fightback late in the second half by the home team fell just short. Blair admitted to feeling frustrated by the outcome of the match, but also said he was proud of the commitment shown by his players, several of whom were in action for the first time in a month or more following their recovery from injury.

“I’m proud – proud of a lot of the effort and the commitment,” the head coach said. “We just lacked a bit of precision under pressure, not throughout the 80 minutes, but during certain periods. I’m proud of the effort, but I would have been happier if we had got the win.

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“Playing against the Sharks, you know they will come at you with a lot of line speed and put you under pressure, and we did not handle that quite as well as we could,” he continued. “We gave Sharks a bit of field position, but then from the 20th to 40th minute we broke the game up, getting counter-attacks and some turnover ball when the Sharks were not as well set and we scored a couple of cracking tries.

“I am trying to get the balance right. I am disappointed not to get the win but pleased with large parts of that performance.

Adam [McBurney] had not played for three months and Boan [Venter] has not played for the last three weeks. Glen [Young] has not played since the Glasgow game, so we had a lot of guys coming back. It maybe took them a bit of time to get back into it, but I am proud of a lot of things we did.”

The Sharks went ahead through tries by Grant Williams and Marnus Potgieter, both converted by Curwin Bosch, in an opening quarter which also saw home winger Wes Goosen yellow-carded for illegally halting an attack close to his own line. With Goosen back on the field, Edinburgh began to get their act together, and they opened their account with nearly half an hour played when McBurney finished off after a one-two with Venter. Charlie Savala converted.

Five minutes later, an inspired 50-22 kick from Henry Immelman turned defence into attack and gave the home side a throw-in five metres from the Sharks line. McBurney grabbed his second from the maul, Savala added the extras, and the scores were level at 14-14.

But they only stayed that way for a minute. When a Sharks attack broke down, Goosen hacked ahead, Edinburgh seized hold of the ball, and eventually Immelman finished off in the corner. Savala’s kick was wide of the mark, but it was still a remarkable turn round from 14-0 down.

The Sharks closed the gap to two points with a Bosch penalty a couple of minutes after the restart. They kept up the pressure, but just as it looked easier for them to score a third try and regain the lead, they were penalised on the Edinburgh line for not releasing.

In the 60th minute, Bosch was just short with a monster penalty attempt from just inside his own 10-metre line. Two minutes later, however, the visitors did regain the lead, with a close-range try by Kerron van Vuuren after they had steadily exerted more and more pressure. The conversion was missed.

Substitute Ntuthuko Mchunu thought he had scored from a quick break, but the referee ruled he had been held up. Then Sharks sub Carlu Sadie was yellow-carded for a high tackle, and Edinburgh began to get back on top after being under pressure for so long.

Two late penalties were sent to touch deep inside the visitors’ 22 as Edinburgh sought a late winner. On both occasions, however, the Sharks defence remained defiantly solid.


Teams –

Edinburgh: H Immelman; W Goosen, M Bennett (captain), J Lang (C Hutchison 68), J Blain; C Savala, B Vellacott (C Shiel 46); B Venter, A McBurney (D Cherry 50), M McCallum (L Atalifo 50), M Sykes, G Young (J Hodgson 60), N Haining, H Watson, V Mata (B Muncaster 60, J van der Walt 76). 

Sharks: A Fassi; M Potgieter, F Venter (Y Penxe 73), B Tapuai, T Abrahams; C Bosch, G Williams (C Wright 41); O Nche (N Mchunu 60), K van Vuuren (D Jooste 65), T du Toit (C Sadie 60), H Andrews (R Hugo 65), G Grobler, J Venter, H Venter, P Buthelezi (captain, S Notshe 63). 

Referee: James Doleman (New Zealand)


Scorers –

Edinburgh: Tries: McBurney 2, Immelman; Cons: Savala 2.

Sharks: Tries: Williams, Potgieter, Van Vuuren; Cons: Bosch 2; Pen: Bosch.

Scoring sequence (Edinburgh first): 0-5; 0-7; 0-12; 0-14; 5-14; 7-14; 12-14; 14-14; 19-14 (h-t) 19-17; 19-22.


Yellow cards –

Edinburgh: Goosen (16mins)

Sharks: Sadie (67mins)


Attendance: 6,791

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About Stuart Bathgate 1240 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.


  1. Edinburgh do not win enough, that’s the bottom line. Plenty of good rugby but like Scotland not clinical enough and can’t see games out. New 10 may help when he arrives, with more control and decision making.

  2. Quite a battle and no prisoners taken. Shiel showed what had become a distant memory, that he’s very sharp on the break and maybe, given that Velacott limped off, he might get more opportunities. The more he plays, the more the team will get used to him. Blain also had a good break, though I suspect delivering the pass to keep the move going perhaps wasn’t as easy as the commentator suggested.
    Hamish Watson looked sharper than he has for a while, against powerful defenders and that was very welcome.
    Perhaps grinding out a win when not at the top of your game is beyond this team when faced with opponents of this quality, but they very nearly did it anyway. They look better organised than they did at the end of last year, with Immelmann’s current form helping considerably.
    I was scratching my head sometimes when the whistle blew. Maybe I just need better shampoo.

  3. It was a fantastic game to watch. The atmosphere was electric and some great singing from the sharks fans near us. The sharks defence was immense and we played into their hands on occasion with our side to side play. Immelman played well and took some punishment for the team. Shiel made a real difference when he came on, unbelievable by Watson putting in 80 mins and gutted for Muncaster. Appreciate we had a few off and away but our league position doesn’t lie. We’re lacking squad depth and cutting edge to take that next step. We made too many basic ertors and a microcosm for me was when we were attacking deep in their 22 in the 2nd half, we had a 3 man overlap with Goosen standing with entire postcode to himself and no one got there head up to do a cross field kick or put it through the hands. Still a far better league performance than we’ve seen for a while and the noise at the DAM is unbelievable.

  4. Tremendous effort but with Graham VDM out, no real gamebreakers in the backs. However ,saying that, i reckon Shiel had his best game for Edinburgh and deserves a run in the team. Very strong defence by the Sharks infuriating line out malfunctions and several unforced errors were ultimately fatal for our hopes. Thought the try after Immelmans 50-22 was going to be seminal but couldn’t get that further crucial score.
    Savala was anonymous, Vellacott was completely outshone by Shiel. Haining put in a huge shift and I think Hutchison should’ve started.

  5. Forgot to give Charlie Shiel a mention. He was our most dangerous back when he came on and has electrifying pace when he gets some room to run. I had been worried about him fading a bit with other aspects of his game not quite on the ball but he needs to use his running skills more often because he’s faster than any of the other scrum half. Pity his 2 breaks didn’t lead to scores.

    • Agree Ross, Shiel should be given the chance to become Edinburgh’s 9 now, Pygros no spring chicken and Vellacott inconsistent…… big chance for Shiel if given the opportunity. Given Healy will add some authority to the 10 role next season maybe this is Shiels time

  6. Sharks defence so much better than ours. We made simple mistakes, had a very poor lineout. Why oh why do we continue to just bash away with very limited success at the opposition line, simple one pass runners too easy to defend. Sharks looked sharp in attack their runners more elusive than ours and they attacked in red zone with much more imagination.

  7. Well that was some match ! Incredible.

    Shame we lost, esp as I suspect the ref had no idea if the Sharks scored their winning try but he gave it anyway …

    The 3rd Edinburgh try was a thing of beauty, I lost count of the no of offloads.

    The Sharks defence was incredible and we just dropped a couple of balls and the lineout misfired for anything middle or back.

    We really needed that one to stand a chance of the playoffs, but I’ll not give up hope quite yet …. good win for Glasgow …

  8. Great effort from a massively understrength team against a strong Sharks team who may have been missing 4 Boks but still had a massive pack on the park. Unfortunately Edinburgh really needed to win this game to get a top 8 finish and will struggle now. You cant fault the commitment across the team.

    The scrum went well but the line out was a bit mixed with a few lost and a few stolen. We hammered away in the last 10 minutes and once again it was our failing to get over the line from 5m out. We lacked the shear weight to make these positions count and the Sharks repelled us two easily with their shear physicality and size. Our ball carriers are a bit static when they take the ball and this played into the Sharks hands who swamped us at times at the breakdown. The 3rd try was a cracker but unfortunately was our last score.

    Great atmosphere again at the DAM and a pity we couldn’t quite get the win.

  9. Groan. So much hard graft and good work slipped away on the back of some stout Sharks defending and horribly basic errors. Fantastic commitment throughout the team and difficult to be too harsh.
    But The number of fumbled balls when not n contact somehow seemed to outnumber the brilliant catches under the severest pressure. We found ways to score when when there seemed no way through but also found new ways to pass up chances when it seemed easier to score.
    Great game for the neutral to watch,… but, such is the life of an Edinburgh supporter.

    • I don’t think it is necessarily the depth of squad, which has improved in recent years, which is the problem. I just can’t help wondering how the frequent near miss results or thrown-away games over the season would have turned out, had a coach like Franco Smith been in charge, with the self confessed inexperience MB as Backs’s coach.

    • yes, great game for a neutral indeed.
      So frustrating for an Edinburgh fan though.
      Is it a squad depth issue? Well yes and no.
      Edin have great depth in many positions, lock and back row especially. But have recruited/developed poorly in others – like tight head prop, scrum half and stand off (Savala may come good I think, and Healey to come in next season should sort this one)
      Sheil made 3 great breaks yesterday, but he had had loads of chances and hasn’t taken them, hence Vellacot was signed who I think is a pound shop George Horne. McCallum may sort tight head but he is only short term.
      Bit biggest issue maybe is the pack do not deliver enough repetitive quick ball. They have the players to do this, but don’t so defences have an easier time against them

      Haining and Immelman were immense though, credit to them especially

      • Sharks regularly went hard with the counter-ruck yesterday and both scrum half’s seemed reluctant to step up to clear the ball away more quickly, surrendering possession. Tight head’s remains a depth problem, though Murray Mac seemed solid, and we have few genuine ball playing/carrying options so one of these is probably top of the shopping list. Behind, it looked like we were shown up a bit for pace, most of the Sharks players maybe had more gas than we could offer – making long range strikes difficult and blunting our ability to finish some of our many line breaks. But no squad is perfect so we work to maximise our strengths, get everyone fit during the break and go hard for the finish line through and after the six nations.

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