Edinburgh Rugby v Isuzu Southern Kings – Player Focus

Richard Cockerill’s Edinburgh men managed to hold the Isuzu Southern Kings point-less in their round 13 match up at BT Murrayfield on Saturday evening. Here, Erin McRitchie takes a closer look at how every player who took the field for the capital club contributed to the winning performance.

Van Der Merwe (left) and Fife (right) combined for the first score of the night. (Photo: Edinburgh Rugby twitter)

15 – Dougie Fife

Fife found himself back in the fullback starting shirt as Blair Kinghorn was rested this week, and he certainly looked as though he wanted to impress. With a differing style to Kinghorn, Fife often prefers to take himself up to the line whilst players such as Bill Mata have to fall back in order to provide the last line of defence.

He returned to the starting 15 with a bang as, in running a supporting line to Duhan Van Der Merwe, he was able to collect the winger’s pass to run in the first try of the match. This score emulates his form against the Kings last year as he scored in both of their two encounters.

With this attacking work, and his skill for receiving high ball, Fife was eventually named man of the match for the night.

14 – Darcy Graham

Graham has been Edinburgh’s version of a pocket rocket so far this season – his speed and want for the ball has been astounding – and he showed no signs of letting up against Kings.

His first try was all a product of quick ball whilst his second score saw him switch wings, but still exemplify his blistering pace. His enthusiasm for both developing his form in training as well as putting on a solid performance in a game environment has been evident in recent weeks.

13 – George Taylor

On only his second appearance for the club, and making his BT Murrayfield debut, Taylor was raring to prove himself – making breaks, providing quick ball and collecting chip kicks well.

Despite not possessing the experience that players such as Chris Dean or James Johnstone can bring to a centre partnership, Taylor proved to have a talent for running hard into contact, as he took a harsh approach to the tackle.

12 – Juan Pablo Socino

With a number of players rested, Socino was given his starting chance having made a number of appearances off the bench this season. Whilst Socino does possess a natural speed and an impressive amount of strength, it looks as though his ball carrying requires more attention.

Ultimately, as a whole, it was a relatively together performance, but there were a number of instances when Socino suffered from some inconsistencies in his game.

11 – Duhan Van Der Merwe

It has been well documented that fan-favourite Van Der Merwe has excelled himself for Edinburgh this season – after all, statistics from OptaJonny stated the winger had scored the most tries (14), gained the most metres (1301), made the most breaks (32) and beat the most defenders (96) of any player in the league in 2018.

And the South African showed no signs of letting up on Saturday evening as he once again proved to be a nuisance for the opposition in the tackle, in that, it takes a great amount of effort to put him to ground – often more than one player is needed to do so.

Of course, he was also instrumental in a number of breaks, and ultimately set up Dougie Fife for the first try of the match.

10 – Simon Hickey

Going in to the Kings game, Hickey had registered an 86% kicking accuracy. He had mixed results with his kicking in the match however, unlike Jaco Van Der Walt who has accumulated a good couple of clean sheets so far this season.

Unfortunately, the combination of Hickey and Nathan Fowles as half backs lacked the game management power generated when the half back duo is that of Henry Pyrgos and Van Der Walt.

9 – Nathan Fowles

Fowles has not featured too heavily for Edinburgh this season, and unfortunately, Saturday may not have helped his efforts to reclaim the scrum half spot. Fowles provision of ball is often too slow in the intense attacking moments when Edinburgh need to make the most of an under pressure and disorganised Kings defence.

All in all, the number nine looked somewhat indecisive at times, and it was a completely different style of half back game once Charlie Shiel made his way on to the field to replace Fowles.

1 – Rory Sutherland

Sutherland, in recent times, has been plagued by unfortunate injuries, however he looked as though they were distant memories on Saturday night as he provided a sturdy and steady frame for Edinburgh in the scrum.

To top off the evening, Sutherland scored the second try of his Edinburgh career as a result of the monstrous work of the forwards in the driving phases, and their recycling of ball, right on half time.

2 – Ross Ford

Due to illness, Dave Cherry had to drop out of the squad and so, at the last minute, Ford was promoted to the starting line-up – but with his wealth of experience, this had no effect on his ability to adapt to who he plays with in the pack.

On his 190th appearance for the squad, the veteran hooker did not look to have lost any of his impressive work rate, as he played for close to 60 minutes.

3 – Simon Berghan

Berghan’s talent for continually working hard to ensure he is in the right position to run hard lines paid off on a number of occasions against the Kings – including him making an impressive break himself.

In other areas of the game, the scrum especially, the New Zealand born prop was simply too much for opposition prop Pieter Scholtz. His impressive leg strength also allowed him to power through a last-ditch tackle and cross the line for a second half try – his first ever try – further extending his side’s substantial lead.

4 – Fraser McKenzie

Returning from a frustrating short bout of injury, McKenzie was straight back in to the forward fold, being awarded the captaincy to boot in the absence of the rested Stuart McInally.

Though there were instances in which he looked slightly tentative of himself, he made the tackles when it mattered and was a strong presence at the breakdown and in the lineout. And ultimately, he is a very strong pack leader.

5 – Callum Hunter-Hill

Hunter-Hill has truly emerged as a long-term prospect for Edinburgh, and has made Cockerill’s already vast second row combination options just that bit more interesting.

The youngster is confident taking the ball into contact, and is a strong and dependable lineout taker. He also covers a ridiculous amount of ground on the field, ensuring he is available as an option to receive the pass, or as cover at the breakdown.

6 – Jamie Ritchie

Ritchie, much in the same way as Hunter-Hill, showed some real conviction in the driving maul, as well as showing some seriously impressive physicality in the clearing out of rucks.

Another aspect of his game is, as a back row, he is not afraid to stray out in to the wide channels of the field to provide a hard-hitting, fierce carrying options out wide – after all, it was him who provided the pass which allowed Darcy Graham to cross the line for his first try of the night.

7 – Luke Crosbie

In only his second start of the season, Crosbie put in a solid performance in the back row. He is a tough player, as exemplified by the fact that in a game against Zebre in October, Crosbie broke his jaw, but saw out the match regardless.

On Saturday, his best work was at providing good cover at the breakdown, as Edinburgh’s defensive efforts resulted in the Kings leaving BT Murrayfield with not a single score to their name.

8 – Bill Mata

On his 50th appearance for the club, the Fijian back rower Mata, extensive work at the breakdown and the driving maul was as always impressive.

It also wasn’t a foreign sight to see his large, hulking figure attempting to jink step around the Kings defence then decide to merely attempt to barrel through them.

 

Substitutes

Shiel made his debut for Edinburgh off the bench on Saturday and seemed keen to impress. (Photo: Edinburgh Rugby twitter)

16 – Cameron Fenton

As mentioned, Ross Ford was meant to be the hooker on the bench against the Kings, however, when he was placed in the starting line-up, Cameron Fenton was plucked from the reserves list and placed in the number 16 shirt.

He didn’t seem to want to pass up such a fortuitous opportunity either as the forward scored a try just five minutes after stepping on to the pitch. Ally Miller made the original break, offloading to Shiel who – mid-spin – spotted Fenton running a supportive line so threw an offload to the replacement hooker who dived over for the score.

17 – Pierre Schoeman

Schoeman was welcomed to the pitch, to replace Rory Sutherland, with the now expected resounding “Schooooeee”. On the field and straight into a scrum is how the South African found his Saturday night.

Though, judging by previous performances, and how well the Edinburgh scrum had been holding up until that point in the match, it’s doubtful that he was unhappy with that chain of events.

18 – Pietro Ceccarelli

Replacing Simon Berghan, the Italian born prop ensured that the quality of scrummaging did not dip for the capital side, and put in his work at the breakdown.

19 – Ben Toolis

Not used as a replacement

20 – Ally Miller

The young back row came on to the field to replace Mata, and so, he had some large, hard-hitting, ball carrying shoes to fill. He managed that feat with a focused head on his shoulders however.

It was his quick thinking and tough strides that allowed him to make the original break which lead to Fenton’s try. He also put in some challenging tackles, as well as doing his share of work at the breakdown. Yet another back row option for Cockerill to consider perhaps?

21 – Charlie Shiel

In coming off the bench to replace Fowles, Charlie Shiel made his debut for Edinburgh. Straight off the bat, the young prospect showed real determination and hunger to imprint himself on the game and perhaps show that he could be a possibility for further selection in the future.

His provision of ball was sharp and quick, whilst he was confident in organising and directing his backs in to position to recycle ball, ensuring the attack continues through its phases.

22 – Jaco Van Der Walt

Whilst many would have expected Hickey to make way for the South African to take the field, it instead was Graham. The backline thus was re-jigged as Fife moved to the wing whilst Van Der Walt took his place at fullback.

Perhaps this was another of Cockerill’s experiments for his backline, and Van Der Walt did not seem too rusty in the position, so could quite possibly have provided his head coach with another selection option.

23 – James Johnstone

Not used as a replacement

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