EDINBURGH kept their Heineken Champions Cup hopes alive with a gritty comeback win, second best in the first half but first rate up front in the second half.

Getting the better of the massive Sale pack was no mean achievement, with scrum penalties setting up territory and breakdown solidity doing the rest as they turned with the wind at their backs.

Flanker Hamish Watson was a deserved man-of-the-match, which summed up the root of Edinburgh’s success.

“This is a massive win because this is a tough place to come,” he said. “We lost our first game narrowly so it was important to win our second. The half-time team talk was pretty positive because we had defended pretty well and just a couple of slip-ups and lack on concentration had got them into the game.

“We knew if we kept the ball we could create some opportunities and we did that, we dug in in the second half and the half-backs kicked well for us to come out on top.”

The win keeps Edinburgh mid-table under the new qualification system, not out of the race for a Champions Cup quarter-final place and well in the mix for the Challenge Cup later stages.

After Jaco van der Walt missed an early penalty attempt to open the scoring, Sale scored the first try thanks to two pieces of opportunism by full-back Sam James. First he made the most of advantage to pump a kick deep into Edinburgh territory, then a quick line-out throw released wing Denny Solomona on the right wing to score.

Worse was to follow as Sale spread the ball wide again and Edinburgh centre Mark Bennett flew out of the line without hitting his man Rohan van Rensburg, who instead had a clear run to the line.

Perhaps Edinburgh’s lackadaisical approach was best summed up by the number of kicks to them which landed on the ground without being caught, including the kick-off at the start of the second half in the sort of miss you see very rarely.

The positive was the number of scrum penalties loosehead Rory Sutherland was getting against Jake Cooper-Wooley which earned good positions for his side. One such penalty took his side up to the Sale line and after a line-out drive and a series of forward charges, the attacking side of Bennett came to the fore as he sliced through to bring his team back into the game.

That gave Edinburgh belief and another scrum penalty, even with both sides changing both props, launched another attack for the visitors which ended with van der Walt narrowing the gap further with a kick at goal.

A deep kick by Blair Kinghorn returned the pressure and an attempt by Sale’s scrum-half Faf de Klerk to run the ball back ended with another Edinburgh penalty which van der Walt converted to take the lead for the first time.

The next apparent score was a remarkable one, really lung-busting and eventually ruled out for a forward pass after Kinghorn early kicked his way to the try line.

Another soft penalty as centre Chris Dean followed up a kick ahead in an offside position allowed Sales to re-take the lead with a long range penalty for Rob du Preez.

Soon Sale were down to 14 men when No 8 Jean-Luc du Preez shoulder charged Watson on the side of a ruck. He was fortunate to only see yellow with referee Roman Poite somehow convinced there was no force.

The penalty was enough for van der Walt to put his team back into the lead with time running out. They regained possession with four minutes of the game to go and were able to hold on to it in style that was perfected by Munster a few years ago, but which changes to the breakdown rules were supposed to make impossible.

In the end, replacement scrum-half Nic Groom was able to kick the ball out as the clock ticked past 80 minutes.

Scorers, Sale – Tries: Solomona, van Rensburg. Con: R du Preez. Pen: R du Preez.

Edinburgh – Try: Bennett. Con: van der Walt. Pens: van der Walt 3.

Sale Sharks: S James; D Solomona (C Doherty 65), J Van Rensburg, S Hill, M Yarde; R Du Preez, F De Klerk (W Cliff 76); Rodd (R Harrison 50), A van der Merwe (C Langdon 69), J Cooper-Woolley (C Oosthuizen 50), M Postlethwaite (C Neild 65), JP Du Preez (J Phillips 69), C Wiese, S Dugdale, JL Du Preez. Substitutes: L James not used.

Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; J Blain, M Bennett (J Johnstone 69), C Dean, D van der Merwe; J van der Walt, C Shiel (N Groom 48); R Sutherland (P Schoemann 52), S McInally (C, D Cherry 71), S Berghan (WP Nel 52), B Toolis, J Hodgson (A Ferreira 58), M Bradbury, H Watson, V Mata (L Crosbie 58). Substitutes: N Chamberlain not used.

Referee: Romain Poite (France).