Edinburgh beat Sale Sharks with rousing second-half comeback
They still have a lot of work to do in their remaining two games if they are to finish in the top four in Pool A to claim a place in the last eight, but this inspired win will have done their morale no end of good.
After losing 13-8 at home to La Rochelle last weekend, Richard Cockerill’s team desperately needed a win, but there was little sign of one emerging during a lacklustre first half. After turning round with that dozen-point deficit, however, Edinburgh steadily got better. Mark Bennett opened their account with a try, Jaco van der Walt added a conversion and three penalties, and Sale were simply stunned into submission.
Despite their substandard first half, Edinburgh actually had the first scoring chance of the game after Sale offended in a scrum, but Van der Walt was just off target with the penalty.
The visitors had the bulk of the possession for the ensuing ten minutes or so, only to fall behind through a moment of slackness in defence when a swiftly taken lineout on the left by Sale created a massive overlap on the right. The scoring pass to Denny Solomona looked forward, but the try was given after a review and Robert du Preez added the conversion.
Playing with considerably more confidence as a result of that score, the Sharks increased their lead midway through the half. Bennett flew out of the defensive line in the hope of snuffing out an attack, failed to get there, and left a big gap through which Rohan Janse van Rensburg cruised to score unopposed. Du Preez failed to convert this time.
After a scrappy start to the second half, Edinburgh opened their account when Bennett finished off after a good charge by Hamish Watson. Van der Walt added the two points, and with almost half an hour still to play it was very much game on.
Sale’s confidence had gone, whereas Edinburgh, with Nic Groom on at scrum-half and two new props as well, looked increasingly lively.
Just before the hour mark Van der Walt closed the gap to 12-10 afterSale were penalised for not rolling away. Five minutes later the stand-off was on target with another penalty, and after nearly being down and out, Edinburgh were on top by a point.
A chance to extend that lead moments later was ended when Blair Kinghorn fumbled forward, but then Edinburgh had a let-off when Van Rensburg thought he had scored again, only for the offload from Cobus Wiese to be ruled forward. There was no such escape, however, when Chris Dean was penalised, and from beyond the 10-metre line Du Preez restored his team’s lead.
That left Edinburgh with 10 minutes in which to rescue the game, and their hopes were boosted when Jean-Luc du Preez was sinbinned for a shoulder charge on Watson. Van der Walt’s penalty was good, and the score was 15-16 in the visitors’ favour.
While Sale’s sniping still threatened, Edinburgh’s game management showed a composure that has all too often been lacking this season, and they saw the game out with some comfort.
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