Blair Kinghorn excels at stand-off as Edinburgh claim landmark win in Durban

Blair Kinghorn scored two tries and coped admirably with monsoon conditions to help Edinburgh become the first European side to triumph in South Africa this season with a 21-5 win over Sharks in Durban.

Werner Kok of the Sharks brings down Edinburgh's Emiliano Boffelli during the United Rugby Championship match at Kings Park in Durban. Photo by BackpagePix/Shutterstock (12864567h)
Werner Kok of the Sharks brings down Edinburgh's Emiliano Boffelli during the United Rugby Championship match at Kings Park in Durban. Photo by BackpagePix/Shutterstock (12864567h)

It is a performance which strengthens the argument in favour of trying to convert the 25-year-old – who has played almost all of his senior rugby as a back-three player – into a stand-off.

The playmaker opened the scoring with a dummy and break midway through the first half, and then sealed the win with 10 minutes to go when he showed superb footballing skills to dribble a loose ball over the try-line and dive on it for the score. He also played a key role in Edinburgh’s other try with an incisive carry which helped build the momentum in an excellent counter-attack, before impressive full-back Emiliano Boffelli finished with a flourish. Boffelli also kicked all three conversions.

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The plan to convert Kinghorn into the key playmaker for Scotland and his club has split opinion, but Edinburgh head coach Mike Blair insists that the 25-year-old’s raw pace offers a potentially valuable point of difference.

“We’ve encouraged him [Kinghorn] to understand that he’s a real threat with the ball in hand,” said Blair. “So, if a seam opens up, we want him to take that opportunity.

“With other stand-offs, you might want them to be what we call a dinner-suit 10, so they make the pass then re-align and go again. We want Blair to take on the line, and that’s what he did in the first half, and he did it again in the lead-up to Emiliano’s try, so he was excellent today.”

Kinghorn’s polished performance was all the more impressive because the match was played in monsoon conditions, with Blair clearly delighted with the way his stand-off and the rest of the ream adapted.

“We said to ourselves that it was going to take something special to be the first northern hemisphere team to win in South Africa this year and when we were driving here with the rain coming down, I couldn’t decide if it was a good thing or a bad thing,” the coach continued.

“We’re obviously a team who like to move the ball around and we wanted to do that against a big Sharks pack, but we’d also spoken about how important it was going to be to show character and how much we want to play for the jersey, and this gave us an opportunity to show that.

“We also knew that game management was going to be important, and we did that really well. We controlled territory, we kicked really well, and Emiliano Boffelli was outstanding under the high ball.”

The home team’s only points came from a close-range try by prop Thomas Du Toit nine minutes to the second half, at which point Edinburgh were down to 14 men because Pierce Phillips had picked up a team yellow card following a series of infringements.

Sharks also missed a clear try-scoring opportunity when Ox Nche fumbled the ball with the line at his mercy, while Curwin Bosch missed two first half penalty shots at goal – but the South Africans can have no real complaints about the outcome. They lacked the accuracy to really turn all their possession into points, and the urgency to shut Edinburgh down when they got on the front foot.

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