Edinburgh took their impressive recent record to ten wins from 12 in all competition as they swept aside the struggling Southern Kings by 30 points at Myreside tonight.
For the South Africans it was an 11th straight defeat since their inclusion in the Guinness Pro14 as five-try Edinburgh moved to within three points of the top three in Conference B, although third-placed Ulster play Leinster in Dublin tomorrow evening.
“A good workmanlike win. Thankfully we are starting to get to the position we are expecting those kind of performances,” said Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill.
“I’m pleased with the effort. Conditions were horrible. Happy to get five tries and five points that are good for us heading into bigger games.”
Scotland centre Mark Bennett enjoyed a quiet return to action, making his Edinburgh debut almost a year after suffering a knee injury in last season’s Calcutta Cup match.
He ended up playing the full 80 minutes after inside centre Phil Burleigh limped off with what was later described as a tweaked groin in the opening minutes and, while Bennett didn’t see too much of the ball in difficult conditions, it was good to see the Olympic sevens silver medallist complete the game and show the odd flash of his trademark pace. The awarding of the man-of-the-match award to the former Glasgow player was more of a welcome to the club gesture but his coach was delighted to finally get him on the pitch and added: “He’s been good in training. We’ve held him back a couple of weeks because I felt that was the right thing to do. He showed some good touches . It’s a really good start.”
After visiting stand-off Kurt Coleman had spurned an early penalty chance his opposite number and compatriot Jaco van der Walt made no mistake to open the scoring.
The first two tries of the evening showcased some fine footballing skills from the home players. Lock Grant Gilchrist showed a deft touch with his right boot which would have graced Tynecastle or Easter Road as he followed up his charge down of scrum-half Rudi van Rooyen’s clearance to flick the ball around the last defender then pounce on it to score.
Sub Chris Dean, who was on early for Burleigh, then put a perfectly weighted kick through and it was full-back Blair Kinghorn who won the race, more against his team-mates than the flat-footed South African defence, to touch down.
Van der Walt converted the second of the two and Edinburgh were 15-0 up heading into the break.
Van der Walt got the scoreboard ticking over inside the first ten minutes of the restart with a well-struck penalty as the game descended into an error-strewn affair by both sides on a desperately cold night,
Edinburgh tightened things up and turned the screw again, sucking in the Kings defence before Van der Walt went wide to his fellow South African Duhan van der Merwe to scorch over in the 57th minute. The stand-off added the extras to bring up the quarter century.
Heading towards the final ten minutes the heavens opened to unleash a fearsome blast of icy sleet to compound the South Africans’ misery.
The game was well won but still short of the bonus point the home side had to steel themselves for a final push.
They got their reward when a remarkable maul from a penalty lineout crabbed to the centre of the pitch, straightened and thundered over under the posts, sub Cammy Fenton finishing off and Van der Walt converting.
What that in the bag, Edinburgh dropped off a bit and allowed the Kings a consolation score their spirited efforts deserved as full-back Ntabeni Dukisa got over at the left corner and then nailed a fine touchline conversion.
Dukisa then failed to gather a kick to the corner and wing Dougie Fife gobbled up the free ball to complete the scoring in the last move of the match.
Edinburgh now look forward to a double header in the European Challenge Cup against Stade Francais.
Cockerill said: “This was good preparation I think. We’ve had two good games against Glasgow. Kings have struggled but they made us work very hard tonight. It was a tough hit out in these conditions. We come here next Friday and have to win. If we do we have a home quarter-final.”