Edinburgh climbed to the summit of Conference B of the PRO14 with an emphatic home victory over a struggling Southern Kings side.

The visitors battled bravely after the red-carding of prop Pieter Scholtz on 13 minutes, but then fell away badly in the final quarter – and especially during the 10 minutes when they were reduced to 12 men.

The visitors drew first blood when stand-off JT Jackson sent a neat kick into the in-goal area for left winger Erich Cronje to get the downward pressure – but then came the crippling blow to the visiting team’s prospects with Scholtz’s sending off, when he was guilty of raising his forearm to fend a tackle, making contact with John Barclay’s chin/neck area.

Edinburgh took immediate advantage, kicking the penalty to the corner and then driving over the line, with Mike Willemse claiming the score, which Jaco van der Walt converted from wide on the left.

A few minutes later, Matt Scott streaked clear and then delivered what looked like all the world to be a scoring pass for Barclay, but the flanker – perhaps still feeling the effects of his run-in with Scholtz – fumbled the ball with the line at his mercy.

In fairness to the Kings, they did not give up the ghost immediately. Jackson had a long-range offside penalty effort to recapture the lead which floated to the right of the posts, but he was bang on the money when Lewis Carmichael was pinged right in front of the posts on 25 minutes for not rolling away, which put the visitors back into the lead.

Slowly but surely, the man advantage was beginning to show. Nick Haining running off van der Walt pierced the first line of defence then fed Willemse, but again the final off-load failed to go to hand.

However, the hosts kept the pressure on and a few minutes later Duhan van der Merwe came off his wing on a scrum to swoop outside four tacklers on his way to scoring in the opposite corner.

Blair Kinghorn, Barclay and Eroni Sau then combined up the right touchline to send Scott streaking home for try number three on 34 minutes, and it felt like the floodgates had opened – but Edinburgh then allowed themselves to be knocked off their stride.

Referee Joy Neville had a long old look at the TMO to decide if Schalk Ferreira had led with the elbow in a collision with Haining. She eventually decided the collision had been head-on-head so awarded a hands in ruck penalty to the Kings – and Haining was still making his way to the touchline with blood pouring from his bonce as Jackson was darting in for a try against a distracted home defence.

The interval came at just the right time for Cockerill’s men and they started the second half in style when slick hands sent James Johnstone – who was making his first league start of the season – over for the bonus-point try.

There was then another long and confused hold-up when an injury to De-Jay Terblance, who had taken over at tight-head for Scholtz, meant the scrums had to go uncontested. So that Edinburgh’s advantage wasn’t lost by this, the Kings then had to lose another player, with flanker Thembelani Bholi being sacrificed – making it 15 versus 13.

Edinburgh began to really build the pressure. Simon Berghan thought he had found a way over on 63 minutes, but the score was belatedly chalked off for a knock-on during the build-up.

Finally, the dam broke when Kings collapsed a maul as it thundered towards the line, prompting a penalty try and a yellow-card for Aston Fortuin.

Kings were now down to 12 men and Edinburgh made hay, with a length-of-the-field attack straight from the re-start involving injections of pace from Charlie Shiel and Scott, leading to a try for Sau.

The forwards then had their say with Luke Crosbie and Magnus Bradbury carrying hard before Dave Cherry burst clear to score under the posts.

Another sweeping back move from a scrum inside Edinburgh’s half saw Shiel go for try number eight, and before time was up Mark Bennett found himself in acres of space on the left to waltz home for try number nine. This made it 24 points scored by Edinburgh during that 10-minute period when they were up against 12 men.

Scorers, Edinburgh: Tries: Willemse, van der Merwe, Scott, Johnstone, Penalty Try, Sau, Cherry, Shiel. Cons: van der Walt 7.

Southern Kings: Tries: Cronje, Jackson. Pen: Jackson.

Edinburgh Rugby: B Kinghorn; E Sau, J Johnstone, M Scott, D van der Merwe (M Bennett 63); J van der Walt, H Pyrgos (C Shiel 63); J Bhatti (P Schoeman 51), M Willemse (D Cherry 59), W Nel (S Berghan 51), L Carmichael, G Gilchrist (B Toolis 69), M Bradbury, J Barclay, N Haining (L Crosbie 37).

Southern Kings: C Winnaar; Y Penxe (A Loubser 57), S Sithole (D Terblanche 19, A van Rooyen 54), H Mnisi (B Pretorius 46), E Cronje; J Jackson, S Ungerer (T Maree 56); S Ferreira (X Vos 40), J du Toit, P Scholtz, J Sexton (J Astle 60), A Fortuin, R Lerm, T Bholi, E Louw.

Referee: J Neville. Att: 4,873