Edinburgh suffered a 36-30 defeat in South Africa to end their Challenge Cup journey for another season.

It was a real battle on the other side of the equator and Sean Everitt was determined to get a result for his side but the team he picked just couldn’t quite get over the line and it was obvious the travel had an affect on them.

Edinburgh took the first points of the game on four minutes. They had started well and when a penalty was conceded by Sharks, Ben Healy stepped up and stuck it between the posts.

And there was a huge shock when Siya Masuku smashed a penalty of his own wide when he was right in front of the sticks, but that wasn’t a sign of things to come as he kicked 18 points over the course of the game. 

It soon turned though after some great play from Sharks as Makazole Mapimpi produced a stunning bit of skill to chip it over the Edinburgh defence and he got on the end of it to hand off to Lukhanyo Am and he had a simple finish.

Edinburgh chased one of their own but couldn’t quite get it and Sharks ended up adding a second try from James Venter. It was brilliant play from the home side and eventually Eben Etzebeth handed it off to Venter to score, with Masuku adding the extras again.

Etzebeth was yellow carded for a series of incidents and Edinburgh took advantage by getting themselves a try through Pierre Schoeman on his return to the team, with Healy taking it to a one point game. A further penalty from the Edinburgh fly-half meant they went into half time with a lead.

Two quickfire penalties from Masuku put Sharks back in front early in the second half though and with Etzebeth back they were looking much better. It started going from bad to worse for the visitors as Bongi Mbonambi sneaked into space and touched down with Masuku again converting.

Hamish Watson and Dave Cherry did get a couple of tries back for Edinburgh but it wasn’t to be and Sharks booked their place in the last four.

Classy hosts too strong

Sharks have had a frustrating season and didn’t pick up a URC win until March but they have their best players available now and it was an exceptionally strong performance from them at times. It’s unsurprising when they have the likes of Etzebeth, Am and six other members of South Africa’s World Cup winning squad from 2023.

Skinner’s reputation claim

Sam Skinner stated earlier this week that victory over Sharks would improve Edinburgh’s reputation on the European stage. It looked like they’d have a chance in the first half but they just couldn’t keep it up in the second period and unfortunately for Skinner that reputation for the capital club won’t have been improved.

It was a frustrating second period and perhaps they would have gained some increased reputation for their early showing but the home side showed too much and it probably shouldn’t be a surprise given the number of South African World Cup winners in the team.

Travel affects Edinburgh

Edinburgh had a brilliant first half and worked well but it was clear they had fallen away a bit towards the end of the game. There’s been a lot of travel for Everitt’s men over the last few weeks and they just looked a bit more leggy as the second half went on. The penalty count went up and they couldn’t make an impact in an attacking sense having looked threatening throughout the first half.

Focus now on URC

The focus is now on the URC and Edinburgh will be aiming to make the playoffs, although they currently sit outside the playoff spots after their two defeats in South Africa. They face the Scarlets next weekend and after two defeats on the bounce in the league, they’ll be desperate to get back to winning ways.

Everitt is in his first season as head coach and they have performed at a decent level but a strong end to the campaign can be a big building block for next year.  

Gilcho hits 200

Grant Gilchrist put in a very strong performance on his 200th appearance and will be frustrated they couldn’t get the result they wanted.

He joined WP Nel, Allan Jacobsen and Chris Paterson in that exclusive club and his performance in the lineout was one he’ll have been happy with. Edinburgh were dominant in that area and Gilchrist had a big part to play in that.

He’ll be frustrated that they don’t have a chance of silverware in Europe for the rest of the season but he’ll be a big player if they are to make an impact in the URC playoffs for the rest of the campaign.

Sharks: A Fassi, W Kok, L Am, E Hooker (F Venter, 73), M Mapimpi, S Masuku (C Bosch 73), J Hendrikse (G Williams 62), O Nche, B Mbonambi (D Jooste 57), V Koch (H Jacobs 73), E Etzebeth, E van Heerden (C Rahl 73), J Venter (L Labuschagne, 37), V Tshituka, P Buthelezi

Tries: Am (17) Venter (27), Mbonambi (56)

Conversions: Masuku (17, 27, 56)

Penalties: Masuku (48, 52, 65, 70), Bosch (78)

Edinburgh: W Goose, J Henry (C Dean 69), M Bennett (J Lang 65), M Currie, D Van der Merwe, B Healy, B Vellacott (A Price, 55), P Schoeman (Venter 61), E Ashman (D Cherry, 55), WP Nel (Rae 65), S Skinner, G Gilchrist (Hodgson 66), J Ritchie, H Watson, V Mata (L Crosbie 58)

Tries: Schoeman (31), Watson (74), Cherry (80)

Conversions: Healy (32, 74, 80)

Penalties: Healy (4, 15, 40)

Referee: Matthew Carley

Attendance: 11,894