URC: Sharks v Edinburgh: Sean Everitt focuses on positives after one-sided contest

Visitors competed in defence but couldn't control possession or territory

Aphelele Fassi was Sharks' top performer in home win over Edinburgh. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Aphelele Fassi was Sharks' top performer in home win over Edinburgh. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

Sharks 23

Edinburgh 13

ON the one hand, losing by just 10 points away from home against a star-studded team packed with Springbok World Cup winners, hardly feels like the catalyst for panic and deep soul-searching.

It is true that the Sharks started the day bottom of the URC table with only two wins from 12 outings up to that point, but that is a World Cup year anomaly, and any side boasting players of the calibre of Lukhanyo Am, Eben Etzebeth and Bongo Mbonambi is going to be a handful, even when the collective has not yet clicked into gear.

Edinburgh defended well here, and mostly stayed in the fight on a frustrating afternoon in Durban when both teams struggled to hold onto a strangely slippery ball. So, some perspective is required.


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However, it is also true that this was just the latest in a run of games when Sean Everitt’s side have huffed and puffed but failed to produce much in an attacking sense which looks like it could blow the flimsiest of straw houses down. Edinburgh work hard and put their bodies on the line, but they lack sparkle and an attacking identity at the moment.

“I’m very disappointed in the loss,” said Everitt afterwards. “I thought the guys put in a lot of effort on the field. We’ve spoken about physicality against South African teams, especially when you look at the team we played against today, and I think we got the upper hand there. [But] to win you’ve got to have territory and we didn’t win that battle.

“We only got to fire three shots in the first half, got into the 22 once, and kicked a penalty. At 7-3 we were still in the game and showing fight. At 12-6 [midway through the second half] we were still in the game and we got ascendancy in the set-piece, but we put ourselves under pressure today, unfortunately.

“That’s a learning experience for guys coming over to South Africa. Sometimes the bounce of the ball doesn’t go your way. I still believe we could’ve won that game if we had executed better. We’ve just got to stick to task now going forward.

“It’s a hell of a disappointing,” replied Everitt, when asked about squad morale. “We worked so hard to put ourselves in a position to compete for the top four. It’s about staying positive and understanding that we did face two good teams while we were away on this South Africa mini-tour.

“The guys are going to remain positive – I’ll make sure of that – we’ve just got to keep working at what’s letting us down. The rugby in our own half has not been accurate enough over the past couple of weeks. If we look at our all-round game, we got stronger in the set-piece and we probably would’ve liked more reward for that. There’s a lot to be positive about. Edinburgh just now need to have a killer instinct when we put teams under the pump, we finish them off.

Edinburgh are still very much in the battle to make the end of season URC play-offs but need a change of momentum soon, and next weekend’s Challenge Cup round of 16 clash against Bayonne at home is an opportunity to regroup and build some confidence.

“Having this game together with the internationals back has helped us build cohesion going into next week’s game,” agreed Everitt. “It’s going to be important for us to keep the group together so we can take success from the game we’re going to play on Saturday, then into the balance of the URC which is still alive and kicking for Edinburgh.”

 

 

Sharks dominated the first half and really should have been further ahead at the break. Matt Currie did well to hold up the excellent Aphelele Fassi over the line early on, and Jamie Ritchie repeated the trick on Ox Nche around the half hour mark, after Sharks probably made a mistake going for a quick tap when a close-range scrum or three kicked points looked a better option.

On another occasion, Sharks lost control of a maul which appeared to be thundering irresistibly towards the away team’s line, while a loose offload from Makazole Mapimpi – who had capitalised on some sluggish backfield defence from Duhan van der Merwe – bounced off James Venter‘s head with the line at his mercy. Stand-off Siya Masuka also missed a penalty which was 45-yards out but directly in front of the posts.

All of which meant the only home scoring during that opening 40 minutes came via an excellent individualist try from Fassi, who attacked from deep, sprinting through a gap between Jamie Hodgson (who may have been slightly impeded by Jaden Hendrikse), then rounded Ben Healy with ease on his way to the line.

Edinburgh’s scrum was under serious pressure and whatever little possession they did manage to salvage in the first half was quickly squandered through lack of composure, so in the circumstances they will have been delighted to go in at the break only four points behind, after a rare attacking surge featuring van der Merwe and Currie led to an offside penalty, which provided Healy with an easy chance to open his and his team’s account.

 

 

Sharks snatched their second try eight minutes into the second half when Fassi again sniffed out the gap and then sent a lovely pass rightwards to send skipper Am over.

Edinburgh hung in there and enjoyed a period of possession inside Sharks’ 22 from the restart, leading to a not releasing penalty against home blindside James Venter which allowed Healy to haul it back to a single score game. However, those three visiting points were promptly cancelled out by Masuka after the irrepressible Ritchie who got on the wrong side of the referee a couple of times but overall looked back close to his rambunctious best after a difficult couple of months was perhaps harshly penalised for being off his feet when stealing the ball at a ruck.

Sharks started cranking up the pressure again, but lacked the zip to really stretch Edinburgh’s defence and had to make do with another penalty from Musaka, this time from bang in front of the posts, after Hamish Watson triggered Irish referee Eoghan Cross‘ ire when stretching over the top of a rick to steal the ball.

It looked like Currie has snatched a lifeline for Edinburgh when he latched onto a loose Sharks offload and galloped home from 35 yards, only for the TMO to call it back from an accidental knock-off from Watson two passes earlier.

The visitors then had replacement scrum-half Charlie Shiel yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on, with Sharks capitalising on he extra man through a rampaging Pepsi Buthelezi try, past some weak tackling from Healy in particular, which set up the outside chance of a bonus-point if the home team could score again during the final three minutes.

Instead, it was Edinburgh who spent that final spell banging at the door, and Boan Venter powered over in over time for a consolation score.

 

Teams –

Sharks: A Fassi; W Kok, L Am, F Venter ( (E Hooker 50), M Mapimpi; S Masuka ( C Bosch 67), J Hendrikse; O Nche (K Mona 69), B Mbonambi (D Jooste 61), H Jacobs (N Mchunu 61)E Etzebeth (C Rahl 40), E van Heerden (J Labuschagne 57), J Venter, V Tshituka, P Buthelezi.

Edinburgh: W Goosen; J Henry  C Scott 77), M Currie, C Dean (J Lang. 61), D van der Merwe; B Healy, B Vellacott (C Shiel 68); P Schoeman (B Venter 61), E Ashman (D Cherry 52), W Nel (J Sebastian 52-75), J Hodgson (M Sykes, 52), S Skinner, J Ritchie (C Boyle, 65), H Watson, V Mata

Referee: Eoghan Cross (Ireland)

 

Teams –

Sharks: Tries: Fassi, Am; Con: Masuka; Pen: Masuka 2.

Edinburgh: Try: Venter; Con: Healy; Pen: Healy 2.

Scoring sequence (Sharks first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-3 (h-t) 12-3; 12-6; 15-6; 18-6; 23-6; 23-11; 23-13.

 

Yellow cards –

Edinburgh: Shiel (75 mins).


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About David Barnes 3908 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.

22 Comments

  1. Half backs poor, centres equally, and one winger living on an easy street reputation. They have played some bening Rugby this Season so far, so we should be surprised when they go into total freefall when it really matters, at the moment we, are nowhere near a top 8bfinish or a Champions cup team, don’t think Everitt is the answer, but that team on Saturday looked like they had just bumped into each other at the local McDonald’s!

  2. Without ignoring Edinburgh’s many shortcomings, it’s interesting to note that Sean Everitt was the Sharks’ previous coach and they had the presence of mind to “let him go ” only for Edinburgh to snap him up. Was this a Baldrick cunning plan to plant a mole in the opposition or, perhaps more likely, given the quality of players Sharks have, did they simply think he wasn’t able to achieve success with them. What chance have Edinburgh got ?

  3. Well disappointing this mini tour of SA has been but not wholly surprising the “ areas for improvement have been there for a while – just exposed more away from home.
    Having travelled to Cape Town to take in the match and holiday I can tell you it was a lot worse live than on tv . Almost embarrassing at times .
    My biggest concerns are far too many players are either not improving going back the way or being extremely inconsistent. There are exceptions Goosen has improved this year , Ashman and lately Hamish Watson . Mata , Gilchrist solid .
    Contrast that with Glasgow they have almost without exception improved every player even players you would have thought are past best . Every time there is an injury to international player a solution is found and the gap is filled with little or no impact on performance – bizarrely even perform better on occasions . An example the deployment of Duncan Weir and Tom Jordan at inside centre . One does the kicking the other provides flair, passing and gain line breaks – simples . We do still have some great players and they need collectively to find solutions to give at least finish in top 8 . But a radical overhaul is needed to make the most of the undoubted talents we have particularly on wings .

  4. The issue is Edinburgh don’t have the capabilities in attack this is partly the need for a new centre pairing and a lot down to attack coaching. Their 15 had just scored an amazing try – our response kick the ball to him 3 times in a row where there was no kick chase. Absolutely crazy. Awful box kicks time and time again. Part of the reason we never attack is we kick all the time. And most kicks particularly from 9 are very poor.

  5. Really was dire to watch.Once again after viewing the Glasgow match they do seem to be playing a different sport (been saying that many times over the past ten years!).
    The whole SA tour has been very poor and whilst we have a few missiong-Gilchrist,Boffelli,Graham and Crosbie in particular-I’m not sure if that would have made all that much difference as the whole gameplan and attitude seems pretty dire.
    Next week is a potential nightmare.Bayonne look quite strong but the “reward” for beating them will almost ceretainly be to hop straight back on a plane to Durban again! The players will be shattered come the Svcalets match in a fortnighht.Maybe a chance just to blood a few youngsters some more-Scott,Paterson,Henry spring to mind thought wee don’t seem to have the raft of young talent Glasgow have quietly brought through this season.
    Another year in the Challenge Cup beckons methinks.

  6. Just out of interest, anyone else agree that for the good of the league, something has to be done about Leinster’s dominance. Stuffed the Bulls on Friday so can’t really see anyone beating them to the title bar an outstanding, near perfect performance.
    ?

    • You do have to remember that in the regular league season they dominated the last 2 years but when it came to the knockouts they didn’t win and have yet to get to a URC final – so they can be beaten.

    • Have to say we Edinburgh should of beaten them early doors when their player cupboard was bare, but once again Ed threw it away that could of changed Edinburghs season and knocked Leinster back a step, and a certain red was missed last time out for them 🤷‍♂️

    • Need to increase the overall competitiveness of the league so teams can be prepared as to whats coming with Leinster Al.

      I’d like to see URC introduce 4 more teams and go to 2 tiers (10 team leagues) with promotion relegation. Bring in Cheetahs, Georgian Team, Portuguese team, Wasps (if rumours are true).

      Tougher more competitive games is whats needed to prepare teams for Leinster. Atm Leinster’s toughest opposition is usually their own team with depth they have at training sessions.

      One of the reasons i believe Glasgow do so well is how strong their overall squad is, they could have thrown out a totally different and arguably stronger 23 (assuming no injuries) against Scarlets and won by the same score.

  7. In my view that was a much more worrying performance than last week when we were playing a top team who played well after a long trip. The Sharks were there to be beaten yesterday but Edinburgh were nowhere near.

    Our defence seemed to hold up much better than last week but it often looked uncomfortable or disorganised to me, so I think that was more a reflection of the quality of the opposition rather than a reflection of improved standards by Edinburgh.

    Healy has questions to answer (as does Duhan) about poor tackle technique when defending the goal line but he had a perfectly good game going forward (one miscued spiral bomb excepted). He mixed up his passing and kicking game well. I’d like to see him take the ball to the line more often but that requires the backline to be in synch and Edinburgh’s is not there yet (and it is now looking like, with our current crop of centres, we might never get there).

    Duhan had at least two chances to put the foot down on the edge but didn’t back himself either time. I don’t know what that is about because, to me, that is the reason he is in the team. If he isn’t going to take those chances, the relatively poor tackling, positioning and kick fielding which we all know comes with the package cannot be justified.

    Finally, and I know it is not entirely in their own hands, but our 9s have been poor all season. Is it a coincidence that our most cohesive period in attack was the last few minutes when we didn’t have a scrum half on the pitch? That is probably the most pressing question the coaching team needs to address.

  8. May I suggest, it’s all in the detail and just poor basic rugger nouse and technique, two of there try’s were purely down to school boy attempts at tackles, nothing fancy from the opposition, just direct hard carries and we waved them on through. These key moments lost us the game, we can talk all we like about lack of international standard players, but if your not going to make your first up tackles and just wave the opposition through your not gonna win many games?
    Watch the highlights in slowmotion and you’ll see what I mean.

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  9. Another poor performance although probably a bit better than last week with our defence at least a bit improved. It was as I feared with the Sharks at full strength imposing themselves up front. We hardly had any possession in the first half and once again hardly created any chances. The only way we score is from about 2 inches out from a forward pick and drive. We need to find a better way of holding onto the ball and getting territory. Kicking the ball away although not as badly as last week just surrenders the ball to their back 3 who run it back and then it starts all over again – more defence. You need to kick sometimes but its got to be at the right times and contestable which it too often isn’t.

    Interestingly watched first half of Stormers v Ulster and Ulster dominated by holding onto the ball and moving it around with some fluency and variation which we couldn’t get near last week. Ulster have been poor this year as well but their backs are streets ahead of ours. Work to be done but as said last week not sure where the solution lies in the backs. If we beat Bayonne next week in Europe we will be straight back to Durban to play the Sharks in the quarters so a chance to make amends.

    • Watch Glasgow, kick it’s the last resort or deep tactical… hardly any of the 50/50 rubbish so beloved of Edinburghs 9’s, for me it’s time for a clear out at 9 young guns queuing up at Glasgow 🤷‍♂️ Just saying 🫣

      • Edinburgh have Hector Patterson who looks the real deal. White some specialised coaching and game time he could be the future.
        He has a great running game, he brings something different to the table. Not just a box kicker.

  10. Edinburgh ‘s season in danger of imploding. Next weekend’s Cup match should be used to rest key players and blood the younger squad players to see if they have what it takes for the Team’s future.

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  11. I reckon simply Edinburgh haven’t got enough international class players. Graham Bofelli Crosbie would help, however 9 and 12 are a real issue.
    Healy is a v good player but needs guys inside/outside him who can run/create. (to supplement his excellent kicking game).
    Every time Edinburgh were able get into attacking space they looked dangerous but lacked the quality

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    • Nonsense the 10 should be creative and he’s nowhere near pro level. He can kick a rugby ball a long way and he has nothing else to offer. He’s killing the back line.

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      • Aye sir, Healy will never be a Finn Russell but I still think he’s a potentially top player, however he (& Edinburgh) are struggling, many more games where Healy doesn’t dominate/stand out will see me start to come round to your way of thinking.
        Incidentally Jordan had a storming game at 12 for Glasgow last night

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      • He has nothing else to offer except being able to kick a ball a long way?

        A bit like you having nothing else to offer than complete and utter nonsense?

        Serious question – have you ever watched a rugby match in your life?

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      • Potentially there is no point hin taking the ball to the line if there was a no one there in support, which implies either a lack of class at inside centre or poor overall attack coaching.

        I suggest this because when he first got his feet under the table, he was going to line very well effectively.

        I agree it looks like we’re about to implode, unless our attack really turns a corner in the next few weeks.

        Glasgow very good against the Scarlets last night. Being a Scarlets fan currently must be even worse than Edinburgh…

  12. I reckon simply Edinburgh haven’t got enough international class players. Graham Bofelli Crosbie would help, however 9 and 12 are a real issue.
    Healy is a v good player but needs guys inside/outside him who can run/create. (to supplement his excellent kicking game).
    Every time Edinburgh were able get into attacking space they looked dangerous but lacked the quality

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