Richard Cockerill admits Edinburgh only had themselves to blame after throwing away victory over Southern Kings in the Guinness PRO14 on Saturday.
The BT Murrayfield outfit had worked themselves into a commanding position with an eight-point lead as the game ticked into it’s final stages.
But the South African side scored two tries in the final three minutes to snatch a last-gasp win at the Madibaz Stadium in Port Elizabeth and leave Cockerill dumbfounded.
The head coach told his club’s website: “We did enough to win the game, and then you concede two tries with five or six minutes to go. And you get what you deserve.
“It was an opportunity for us to get ahead of the guys around about us and we missed that opportunity. Nobody but ourselves to blame. The two teams battled hard, and Kings did some pretty good things and we congratulate them on that.”
Edinburgh made a host of mistakes throughout this match but by far the worst of them was gifting a simple try to the Kings just four minutes into this match.
That early error gave the much maligned Kings a rare injection of confidence and they grew in stature and belief as this match progressed.
A quick look at the match stats is revealing. Edinburgh enjoyed so much possession that the Kings were forced to make almost three times as many tackles as the visitors, 195 to 67, and still won.
If there was one area of controversy it was the set scrum which Edinburgh bossed from first to last. The scrums constantly went up, down or backwards and the penalty count against the Kings rose to an eye-watering 18, three times the number that Edinburgh conceded. For reasons only he knows the young Welsh referee Dan Jones chose not to go to his pocket.
“It’s standard really,” said a frustrated Cockerill. “We’ve seen it over the season that you don’t get the reward that you are meant to. The penalty count in our favour was pretty high but that’s what you have to deal with. We had multiple opportunities in the first half to score and we didn’t and in and around that there is some refereeing where he just penalises and penalises and penalises but doesn’t take anyone away from the field.
“But then we made our own errors, and turned the ball over too much. We got what we deserved in the end. That’s our own fault.”
Edinburgh failed to look after the ball and their back division looked toothless for much of the game. Perhaps Simon Hickey, who plays flatter to the gain line, would have been a better bet at stand-off than Jaco van der Walt because, in addition to death and taxes, another of life’s certainties is that a South African will make the tackle if you run straight at him.
Chris Dean made amends for his early mistake with a try shortly after the Kings’ opening score but two penalties from full-back Masixole Banda kept the home side in front.
Edinburgh scored two more tries in the final quarter. The first came on 61 minutes, a penalty try from a set scrum, and the second on 72 minutes when veteran hooker Ross Ford flopped over the try line from an attacking lineout. It appeared that Edinburgh had done just enough to win with a 21-13 lead inside the final six minutes, which is when things got really interesting.
Running back an Edinburgh kick, Meli Rokoua and Yaw Pexne combined on the right wing before replacement Hickey slammed that door shut. James Johnstone was carded for slowing the ruck ball. The Kings kicked to the corner and replacement stand-off Bader Werner Pretorius scored from the lineout, Banda adding the extras to make it a one-point match.
Edinburgh kicked off and the exact same two men enacted an action replay up the right flank. Rokoua made the initial line break before a one-handed, overhead offload and, with his opposite number in the sin bin, no one was able to stop Pexne from 60 metres.
“We have nine guys in the Test team and 11 guys injured,” said Cockerill whose side take a break now. “That’s not an excuse, we don’t need them. Credit to Kings but if you switch off and don’t take opportunities it comes back and bites you.”