A WINNING run of three games came to an end for Edinburgh last night as the Sharks withstood some frenzied late pressure to claim a narrow win.

The result was enough for the South Africans to leapfrog Mike Blair’s side and go into the play-off places in the URC.

Both teams were missing key players – the Sharks had rested World Cup winners Siya Kolisi, Lukhanyo Am and Eben Etzebeth, while Edinburgh were not only missing most of their senior Scotland players, but also had the likes of Emiliano Boffelli out injured.

In addition, several starters were playing for the first time since recovering from injury, notably Hamish Watson, who battled on for the full 80 minutes plus in his first appearance since Scotland’s game against the All Blacks in November.

Blair admitted to feeling frustrated by his team’s inability to win the game, but also insisted he was proud of the fight shown by his players, especially in a first-half fightback that saw them recover from 14-0 down to 19-14 up at the break.

“I am proud, proud of a lot of the effort and the commitment,” the head coach said. “We just lacked a bit of precision under pressure, not throughout the 80 minutes, but during certain periods. I’m proud of the effort, but I would have been happier if we had got the win.

“Playing against the Sharks, you know they will come at you with a lot of line speed and put you under pressure, and we did not handle that quite as well as we could.

“We gave Sharks a bit of field position, but then from the 20th to 40th minute we broke the game up, getting counter-attacks and some turnover ball when the Sharks were not as well set and we scored a couple of cracking tries.

“I am trying to get the balance right. I am disappointed not to get the win but pleased with large parts of that performance.

“Adam [McBurney] had not played for three months and Boan [Venter] has not played for the last three weeks. Glen [Young] has not played since the Glasgow game, so we had a lot of guys coming back. It maybe took them a bit of time to get back into it, but I am proud of a lot of things we did.”

The Sharks went ahead through tries by Grant Williams and Marnus Potgieter, both converted by Curwin Bosch, in an opening quarter which also saw home winger Wes Goosen yellow-carded for illegally halting an attack close to his own line.

With Goosen back on the field, Edinburgh began to get their act together, and they opened their account with nearly half-an-hour played when McBurney finished off after a one-two with Venter. Charlie Savala converted.

Five minutes later, a brilliant 50-22 kick from Henry Immelman turned defence into attack and gave the home side a throw-in five metres from the Sharks line. McBurney grabbed his second from the maul, Savala added the extras, and the scores were level at 14-14.

But they only stayed that way for a minute. When a Sharks attack broke down, Goosen hacked ahead, Edinburgh seized hold of the ball, and eventually Immelman finished off in the corner. Savala’s kick was wide of the mark, but it was still a remarkable turn round from 14-0 down.

The Sharks closed the gap to two points with a Bosch penalty a couple of minutes after the restart. In the 60th minute, Bosch was just short with a monster penalty attempt from just inside his own 10-metre line, but two minutes later the visitors did regain the lead, with a close-range try by Kerron van Vuuren after they had steadily exerted more and more pressure.

The conversion was missed, but, for all that Edinburgh had ample time in which to launch several threatening attacks, the three-point lead was preserved by a resolute defence, including after the yellow-carding of substitute tighthead Carlu Sadie.

Scorers, Edinburgh – Tries: McBurney 2, Immelman. Cons: Savala 2.

Sharks – Tries: Williams, Potgieter, Van Vuuren. Cons: Bosch 2. Pen: Bosch.

Edinburgh: H Immelman; W Goosen, M Bennett (captain), J Lang (C Hutchison 68), J Blain; C Savala, B Vellacott (C Shiel 46); B Venter, A McBurney (D Cherry 50), M McCallum (L Atalifo 50), M Sykes, G Young (J Hodgson 60), N Haining, H Watson, V Mata (B Muncaster 60, J van der Walt 76).

Sharks: A Fassi; M Potgieter, F Venter (Y Penxe 73), B Tapuai, T Abrahams; C Bosch, G Williams (C Wright 41); O Nche (N Mchunu 60), K van Vuuren (D Jooste 65), T du Toit (C Sadie 60), H Andrews (R Hugo 65), G Grobler, J Venter, H Venter, P Buthelezi (captain, S Notshe 63).

Referee: James Doleman (New Zealand).

Attendance: 6,791.