Edinburgh overtaken by the Emirates Lions in South Africa despite a monstrous goal

Goalscorer Vincent Tshituka looks to pass Pierre Schoeman during the Lions’ win over Edinburgh at Ellis Park. Photo by BackpagePix/Shutterstock

It was tight and, at times, scrappy and the Scots have at least a losing bonus point to show for their effort. Combined with the win over the Sharks last week, that’s a decent comeback for Mike Blair’s side from their mini-tour. They remain on the heels of Glasgow Warriors in the United Rugby Championship standings with three rounds of regular season fixtures remaining.

The Lions outscored their visitors by two tries to nil and pretty much earned their victory in the rarefied atmosphere of Ellis Park.

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The ball flies further through the air in the Highveld and Blair had joked the day before the match about WP Nel dropping a goal from the halfway line in training. But Henry Immelman did just that in the 12th minute to put Edinburgh ahead. Impressive execution from the big full-back who recovers Jordan Hendrikse’s drop, settles in, then unleashes a huge kick that clears the crossbar several yards.

Edinburgh had started the game rather cautiously but Immelman’s drop goal seemed to energize them and Grant Gilchrist was unlucky to be penalized on a rare excursion in the Lions 22.

The home side had most of the ball possession and had the chance to equalize but Hendrikse was off target with a penalty coming from outside on the left.

It was careful and messy and the flow was not helped by a two-and-a-half-minute hold-up while referee Gianluca Gnecchi checked a vague infraction on the big screen.

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Edinburgh went ahead thanks to Boffelli’s 45-yard penalty in the 27th minute after Francke Horn was punished for an unarmed tackle on Pierre Schoeman.

It seemed to spur the Lions into action and they produced the best moment of the first half two minutes later when Hendrikse scored the game’s first try. Scrum-half Morne van den Berg was the creator, shooting down the blind side before passing to Edwill van der Merwe who took the ball in tackle before unloading on the dead end which had a clear run to the line. Hendrikse was wayward with his attempt to convert his own try.

Van den Berg looked sharp and had another push in the Edinburgh 22 but overcooked his chip as time ticked away in the first half.

Kinghorn looked to have put Edinburgh further with a deliciously taken try in the corner, but the score was scored after Ben Vellacott allowed the ball forward when tackled in the build-up.

Things started to turn sour for the visitors after that, with Magnus Bradbury shown the yellow card for tackling Horn before the Lions flanker received the ball. Two minutes later the South Africans took the lead for the first time in the match and again the try fell short side.

It came from a lineout and the Lions worked it well in the tight channel, playing into Vincent Tshituka for the score which Hendrikse converted.

Boffelli’s second penalty of the game brought Edinburgh within three points with 17 minutes left, but Hendrikse replied with one of his own soon after to restore the Lions’ six-point advantage.

Mark Bennett’s late attempt to save the game for Edinburgh was thwarted when he was held over the line by Lions full-back Quan Horn.

Scorers: Emirates Lions: Essays: Hendrikse, V Tshituka. Con: Hendrikse. Pen: Hendrikse.

Edinburgh: Enclosure: Boffelli 2. Drop goal: Immelman.

Emirates Lions: Horn of Quan; Rabz Maxwane, Wandisile Simelane, Manuel Rass, Edwill van der Merwe; Jordan Hendrikse, Morne van den Berg (André Warner 65); JP Smith, PJ Botha, Carlu Sadie (Asenathi Ntlabakanye 35), Ruben Schoeman, Reinhard Nothnagel, Francke Horn, Vincent Tshituka, Emmanuel Tshituka.

Replacements: Morne Brandon, Ruan Dreyer, Ruan Venter, Sibusiso Sangweni, Henco van Wyk, Tiaan van Wyk.

Edinburgh Rugby: Henry Immelman (Jaco van der Walt 65); Darcy Graham, Mark Bennett, James Lang (Matt Currie 70), Emiliano Boffelli; Blair Kinghorn, Ben Vellacott (Charlie Shiel 62); Pierre Schoeman (Boan Venter 65), Stuart McInaly (Dave Cherry 45), WP Nel (Luan de Bruin 62), Pierce Phillips (Glen Young 56), Grant Gilchrist, Magnus Bradbury, Hamish Watson (Connor Boyle 45), Ben Muncaster.

Arbitrator: Gianluca Gnecchi (FIR).

Charles P. Patton