Southern Kings 0
DAVID BARNES @ Murrayfield
A GOOD night at the office for Richard Cockerill’s men, who climbed to second in Conference B of the Guinness PRO14 with this one-sided bonus-point victory, whilst also extending their winning streak in all competitions to five matches.
The fact that they were up against a desperately poor opposition in the Southern Kings – who clearly wanted to be anywhere else on the planet than stuck in the drafty and almost completely empty Murrayfield bowl on a freezing Saturday night in January – does provide context. But so does the fact that this was as close to a second-string side as Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill can manage with his current squad, with most of his key men rested ahead of next week’s crucial Champions Cup clash in Toulon.
Perhaps the biggest plus, as far as Edinburgh is concerned, is the fact that youngsters such as second-row Callum Hunter-Hill, centre George Taylor, back-row Ally Miller, scrum-half Charlie Shiel and hooker Cammy Fenton, revelled in the opportunity to get valuable game time.
“To be fairly controlled and clinical and take our chances with so many changes on the back of the four weeks we’ve just had was massive,” said Edinburgh assistant coach Duncan Hodge. “The focus all week was about being consistent with our previous performance levels and there was a big onus on those young guys tonight – and on the likes of Fraser McKenzie and Jamie Ritchie having to lead the team – and they all did really well.
Edinburgh took the lead in the third minute when Duhan van der Merwe burst onto Simon Hickey’s inside ball and shrugged off three tacklers before feeding Dougie Fife on his inside for the try.
Darcy Graham then got in on the act after a neat offload from Simon Berghan and a powerful gallop up the middle of the park from Hunter-Hill had created the momentum, before a quick recycle and slick hands from Nathan Fowles, Hickey and Ritchie gave the winger space on the right to scurry over.
The procession continued with Graham popping up on the other side of the park to finish off another sweeping Edinburgh attack – but that’s as good as it got during the first half, with Edinburgh going completely off the boil for the next 30 minutes, exhibiting a lack of discipline and accuracy which would have been punished by a better opposition than the rabble they were up against here.
Cockerill was so frustrated by what he had witnessed that he marched from his technical box at the back of the West Stand to the touchline with a few minutes of the half still to go so that he could make his thoughts known to the players as they made their way from the pitch at half-time.
Their saving grace was that Sutherland managed to rumble over in the final play, meaning that Edinburgh went into the break with the bonus point in the bag.
The second half started pretty brightly for Edinburgh with Berghan powering over for try number five soon after the resumption, but while Edinburgh were certainly a more compelling force after the break, they still struggled to click with the same precision as they had demonstrated so excellently during that sparking opening period.
When it clicked again on 68 minutes it did so in some style, with Miller bursting onto Hickey’s inside ball and making good yards, before linking with Shiel, who in turn released Fenton for a well-taken score.
The Kings roused themselves for a late assault but didn’t get over the line, and came away with a big, fat zero – which is exactly what they deserved from this match.
Edinburgh: D Fife; D Graham (J van der Walt 66), G Taylor, J Pablo Socino, D van der Merwe; S Hickey, N Fowles (C Shiel 53); R Sutherland (P Schoeman 70), R Ford (C Fenton 58), S Berghan (P Ceccarelli 56), F McKenzie, C Hunter-Hill, J Ritchie, L Crosbie, V Mata (A Miller 46). Substitutes: , , B Toolis, , , , J Johnstone.
Southern Kings: M Banda (N Dukisa 58); M Makase (B Klaasen 66), H Klaasen, T Kruger, Y Penxe; M Du Toit, S Ungerer (S Pretorius 58); A Tshakweni (N Oosthuizen 56), A Van Rooyen (M Willemse 58), P Scholtz (L Pupuma, 66), S Greeff (A van Schalkwyk 40), J Astle, C Velleman, M Burger, R Lerm (L Mtyanda 47-53).
Referee: J Lacey
Edinburgh: Try: Fife, Graham 2, Sutherland, Berghan, Fenton; Con: Hickey 4.
Scoring sequence (Edinburgh first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 14-0; 19-0; 24-0; 26-0 (h-t) 31-0; 36-0; 38-0.