Edinburgh Rugby bask in South African glory after Blair Kinghorn masterclass
Defeating a Cell C Sharks side 21-5 fielding several World Cup winners including prolific try-scoring winger Makazole Mapimpi and captain Siya Kolisi was an important statement by Edinburgh on Saturday afternoon.
It was the first win by a northern hemisphere side in South Africa since the launch of the United Rugby Championship at the start of this season, but that one result will count for little in the final shakedown if the men from the Scottish capital fail to follow it up in their four remaining matches of this league campaign, starting with their next challenge against the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg this coming Saturday.
Edinburgh are now two points off fourth in the URC table, which is where they want to finish in order to secure a home draw in the play-offs. Another success in their second and final match of this mid-season mini tour to South Africa would massively boost their chances of achieving that goal, but they are up against a Lions side who have won three home games on the bounce during the last three weeks, including a 23-21 triumph over third in the table Munster and a 45-15 dismantling of Ospreys on Friday night, so it is not going to be easy.
Centre Mark Bennett, who captained Edinburgh on Saturday, insists that he and his team-mates are looking forward to the challenge and he added that they are hoping for better overhead and underfoot conditions than they endured on Saturday so that they can play a more expansive game than was possible against the Sharks.
“It was horrendous, we were shown a video of the ground by our videographer when we were still at the hotel and it was torrential,” he said. “It looked like a pitch you could drown on! It’s been bloody roasting all week as well and then when it got to matchday it was Scottish conditions again.
“But what a result for us. We didn’t play too much rugby. We just got it into the right areas, applied pressure on them and took our chances when they came.
“We’ve come to a great side here and managed to turn them over. We spoke about it all week. We wanted to be that first team to come over and get that win, and here we are … we’ve managed it!
“I wouldn’t say it was a coming-of-age win as we’ve had a few big results already this season in similar circumstances,” he added. “You look at Saracens away [in the Challenge Cup back in December], which was another horrible day where we had to graft and managed to get the right result again.
“So, we already knew that we have the ability to knock over top sides away from home – but we want to do that consistently which means we don’t relax now and take our foot off the gas against the Lions next weekend."
Bennett also praised the performance of Blair Kinghorn on Saturday, who scored two of the team’s three tries against the Sharks to be named man-of-the-match. It was a performance which will provide re-assurance to those championing the 25-year-old’s switch from back-three to stand-off that it is an experiment worth persevering with.
“Blair was outstanding,” said Bennett. “He scored two tries but that wasn’t the best part of his game. He got us into good territory, kicked really well, and got us into the right areas to play that pressure game.”
Edinburgh’s other try was scored by Argentina Emiliano Boffelli, who also kicked all three conversions.