AFTER going toe-to-toe with last season’s URC champions throughout the first half and leading on points at the break, Edinburgh finally succumbed to the Stormers’ pressure game in the second period and could not even hold on for a losing bonus point.

Afterwards, beaten head coach Mike Blair praised his players’ attitude and application, whilst expressing frustration at the way Irish referee Frank Murphy handled the scrums.

“I’m surprised that they weren’t penalised more,” he said. “We’ve got a dominant scrum, we’re going forward, the scrum is going to ground, and the referee is saying ‘play the ball away’.

“That doesn’t happen. We’re dominant and we should be rewarded for being dominant in that area.

“Stormers were excellent in their defence. I thought they put a huge amount of pressure on our attack, and that was their pinch point.

“Our pinch point was our scrum and I thought it was managed a bit to get the game going when, in fact, we had a huge amount of dominance there which should have resulted in more points and potentially yellow cards for illegal scrummaging.

“It’s not the reason for the loss. I thought Stormers were excellent today – they took the opportunities they got, and they harassed us with their defence.

“They’ve got some incredible individuals – especially in the back row, the centre and on the wings – who if you give them a sniff they take it. That’s the beauty of their game, which is about strong defence and forcing errors out of you and then using their speed and skill to make the most of it.

“That’s what won them the game, although I do feel that had we been given our due reward for what we were doing at the scrum then we could have controlled the game a little better.”

Edinburgh battled their way to a 10-point lead thanks to a Pierre Schoeman try, and a conversion and a penalty from Blair Kinghorn, then Stormers hauled themselves back into the contest, and with away hooker Stuart McInally in the sin-bin for killing the ball on his own line, the hosts finally got on the scoreboard with a try by flanker Deon Fourie just before the break.

A try from Springbok hooker Joseph Dweba at the start of the second half followed by a brace for exciting youngster Suleiman Hartzenberg secured the bonus-point home win, with man-of-the-match Libbock kicking all four conversions and two penalties.

Kinghorn kicked a second penalty and Dave Cherry claimed a consolation try, but it was not enough to secure a losing bonus point.

That means Edinburgh return home from their two-match mini-tour of South Africa with heads held high but with only the two bonus-points they picked up against the Bulls last weekend to show for their effort.

Sazi Sandi, Stormers’ replacement prop, was shown the red card before the end following head-on-head contact with Jamie Ritchie.

“Let’s not forget that we have played against two quality teams who were the finalists in the URC last season,” concluded Blair.

“These are tough games – they are proper Test match-type scenarios against international quality teams – but the guys are thriving and taking on the challenge.

“So, we want to be proud of what we’ve done, but we also want to be ambitious and challenge ourselves.

“It is fine to be in games, but let’s be in a better position to finish games, because I believe we’ve got the squad to be able to do that.”

Edinburgh host the Dragons next weekend and will be hopeful that centre Mark Bennett recovers from the shoulder injury he picked up during this game in time to play in that match.

No.8 Nick Haining suffered a concussion so will have to go through the Head Injury Assessment process before he is available again, while Jamie Ritchie has bruised ribs.

Scorers, DHL Stormers – Tries: Fourie, Dewba, Hartzenberg 2. Cons: Libbock 4. Pens: Libbock 2.

Edinburgh – Tries: Schoeman, Cherry.

Cons: Kinghorn. Pens: Kinghorn 2.

DHL Stormers: C Blommetjies; S Hartzenberg, D du Plessis (S Mngomezulu 69), D Willemse, A Davids; M Libbok, P de Wet (H Jantjies 54); A Vermaak (B Harris 33), J Dweba (A Venter 58), N Fouche (S Sandi 52), S Moerat (A Smith 54), M Orie, D Fourie (J Pokomela 54), H Dayimani (E van Rhyn 69), E Roos.

Edinburgh: H Immelman; D Graham, M Bennett (C Dean 42), J Lang, D Hoyland; B Kinghorn ( C Savala. 70), B Vellacott (H Pyrgos 61); P Schoeman (B Venter 69), S McInally (D Cherry 69), W Nel (L de Bruin 61), S Skinner, G Gilchrist (G Young 64), J Ritchie, H Watson, N Haining (D Cherry 38-46, B Muncaster 51).

Referee: Frank Murphy