With a spirited comeback victory, EDINBURGH held their Heineken Champions Cup hopes alive, becoming second best in the first half but coming out on top in the second.
It was not to take for granted the dominance over the large Selling pack, with scrum penalties offering room and solidity for breakdowns as they had the wind at their backs.
Flanker Hamish Watson was deservedly called Man of the Match, summarizing the reason for the success of Edinburgh. He said, “It’s a huge win because it’s a tough place to play,”
“We lost our first game narrowly, so it was crucial to win our second. The team’s halftime talk was very optimistic because we had defended very well and just a couple of errors and lack of attention had gotten them into the game.
We knew we could build some chances if we kept the ball and we did, we dug in in the second half and kicked the full-backs well to win the game for us.
The win leaves Edinburgh in the middle of the table, not out of the running for a place in the Champions Cup quarter-finals and still in strong competition for the Challenge Cup.
Sale scored their first with two strong plays from full-back Sam James after Jaco van der Walt missed an early penalty attempt to open the scoring.
He first took advantage of pumping a kick deep into the territory of Edinburgh, then released winger Denny Solomona on the right wing with a fast line-out throw to score.
But worse was to come when Sale carried the ball out wide again and Mark Bennett flew off the line from the center of Edinburgh without touching his man, Rohan van Rensburg, who had a clear path to the line instead.
Perhaps the lackadaisical attitude of Edinburgh is best summed up by the amount of kicks that landed without being caught on the field, including the kick-off at the beginning of the second half that resulted in a miss that you never see.
Loosehead Rory Sutherland collected a number of scrum penalties against Jake Cooper-Wooley on the positive side, giving his side decent field position.
One of those penalties brought his side to the Selling line, and Bennett’s defensive side came out after a line-out and a series of forays as he powered forward and got his team back into the game.
While both sides substituted both props, this gave Edinburgh trust and another scrum penalty, set up another assault by the visitors that ended with van der Walt further reducing the deficit with a kick into the goal.
Blair Kinghorn’s deep kick brought back the pressure, and Sale’s scrum half Faf de Klerk’s attempt to win the ball back ended with another Edinburgh penalty that van der Walt converted for his first lead.
A amazing, truly lung-busting one was the next clear goal and was finally disallowed for a forward pass after Kinghorn had made his way to the try-line before a counter-attack by Sale van Rensburg helped them break through again.
Heavy breathing from the Edinburgh players across the ground, including a sigh of relief.
When center Chris Dean followed a kick in an offside spot, another soft penalty allowed Sale to retake the lead with a long-range shot from Rob du Preez.
Soon Sale went down to 14 men when Jean-Luc du Preez, number 8, shouldered Hamish Watson in a side ruck. He was fortunate to see only yellow as referee Roman Poite thought that it was not violence.
For van der Walt, the penalty was necessary to put his team back in front as time expired.
The team reclaimed possession with four minutes left and kept on to it in a manner mastered a few years earlier by Munster, but which was meant to be made unlikely by improvements to the breakdown rules.
In the end, as the clock ticked past 80 minutes, replacement scrum-half Nic Groom was able to boot the ball out of bounds.
Purchase: Tries – Solomona, van Rensburg. The Con – R du Preez. The pen – R du Preez.
Edinburgh: Have a try – Bennett. The Con – van der Walt. The 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), JP Du Preez (J Phillips 69), C Wiese, S Dugdale, JL Du Preez, M Postlethwaite (C Neild 65). Substitutes: Not using L James.
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; J Blain, M Bennett (J John Bennett, J John Bennett)