Edinburgh limp to loss as Southern Kings rule supreme

Edinburgh's Chris Dean and George Taylor try to get to grips with Harlon Klaasen of Southern Kings at NMU Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday. Picture: Rex/Shutterstock
Edinburgh's Chris Dean and George Taylor try to get to grips with Harlon Klaasen of Southern Kings at NMU Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday. Picture: Rex/Shutterstock
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Edinburgh were missing many of their best players but they still produced a stinker in the heat of a South African summer and lost to the Conference B whipping boys the Southern Kings.

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 Richard Cockerill, pictured, after the match. “You play how you play and you try and be positive around your set piece. But 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 to give Edinburgh a fright 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.”