Edinburgh v Benetton Rugby
Edinburgh succumbed to their first league defeat of the season after a disappointing second-half performance saw them fall short against a determined Benetton side.
In an uneventful opening 15 minutes, in which neither side truly threatened, it was the hosts who eventually got their noses in front, due in part to Chris Dean's attacking prowess. The outside centre - who touched down in Edinburgh's opening day victory against Cardiff Blues - has been in fine form to start the league campaign and in a period of eight minutes he scored twice to give his side a fourteen-point advantage. However, the Italian side would soon answer with a counter blow in the form of Angelo Esposito's well-taken score and when stand-off Ian McKinley nailed a penalty on the stroke of half-time, it was all to play for at the break.
In a frantic start to the second-half, Edinburgh's captain Magnus Bradbury was sent to sin-bin after the referee judged that he had deliberately played the ball on the ground. The Italian side would soon take advantage of their numerical supremacy via McKinley's second penalty of the evening, before Esposito touched down once again to give his side a 20-14 lead. Edinburgh would answer back via Weir's lengthy penalty, cutting the defect to three points, however this was as good as it was to get for the capital side. Despite a period of domination from Edinburgh to end the match, which saw the visitors reduced to 13 men as they struggled to compete against Edinburgh's scrum, the Italian side held on for their first win of the Guiness PRO14 season.
Chris Dean breathes life into Edinburgh
Following an opening fifteen minutes which saw the visitor's Tommaso Allan carted off with what appeared to be a serious knee injury and a plethora of inaccurate play from both sides, it was Edinburgh who eventually displayed the first real glimmer of attacking power. Although Cornell du Preez had shown early impetus as he carried well over the gain-line, it was the host's back-line who would soon steal the show. With Edinburgh building an impressive attack on the half-way, the ball was gradually worked forward via a burst of pick-and-goes. Eventually it was played wide and with the Benetton defence zoning in on Robbie Fruean, the former-Junior All Black displayed great vision to quickly offload to his centre partner Chris Dean, who arrived on a breathtaking inside line. With the Benetton defence caught flat-footed, there was no stopping Dean from 35-metres out (7-0).
However, it was to get better for the 23-year-old only moments later as he scored his second try of the evening and third of the season. The score arrived following a gargantuan run from du Preez, who once again wrestled Edinburgh into Benetton's twenty-two. With numbers out wide, the ball was played through the hands of the back-line and when Dean found himself in space, he was able to canter in to extend his sides' lead to 14 points (14-0).
Benetton hit back
Not to be denied, Benetton soon answered Edinburgh's flurry of scores with a try of their own. Although they had rarely waded into Edinburgh's territory in the opening stages of the half, it appeared the hosts' quick-fire advantage acted as a catalyst. With the Benetton pack inching deep into the Edinburgh twenty-two, the ball eventually broke to Angelo Esposito who made no mistake from only metres out (14-7). Despite having Engjel Makelara sent to the bin, the visitors tales were well and truly up and they would soon reduce the deficit further thanks to stand-off McKinley's penalty on the stroke of half-time (14-10).
HALF TIME | EDINBURGH 14-10 BENETTON RUGBY
Benetton take the lead
With only four points in it, the momentum had undoubtedly switched to the visitors, despite Edinburgh's grit and determination in both attack and defence. The hosts were dealt a blow when captain Magnus Bradbury was sent to the bin, with the referee judging that the Edinburgh captain had deliberately played the ball on the deck, and they were soon made to pay for their numerical disadvantage. Firstly, McKinley hit another penalty to chip the lead to one point (14-13), before Esposito scampered in for his second score of the evening. With McKinley firing over the resulting conversion, the match had been turned on its head. (14-20)
Edinburgh denied at the death
When Duncan Weir chipped over a penalty (17-20), Edinburgh soon began to rediscover the form that had given them a fourteen-point advantage early doors. Richard Cockerill rang the changes, with the experienced trio of Daryl Marfo, Hamish Watson and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne all entering the fray, and with 15 minutes remaining, it appeared it was Edinburgh's game to win. Time after time, the hosts' pack ventured into the Benetton twenty-two, only to be repelled back further. When the visitor's Cherif Traore was sent to the bin, Edinburgh kicked to the corner and thus began a six-minute period of relentless pressure from the Myreside outfit.
A dart at the line was held up by frantic Benetton defence, however, from the resulting scrum Edinburgh were awarded a penalty. With a penalty try imminent, Richard Cockerill's side elected for another scrum, which once again led to Benetton being penalised. Another penalty followed at the next scrum, which led to Benetton's Alberto De Marchi being sent to the bin. With scrums now uncontested, the chance of a penalty try was off the table and so Edinburgh kicked to the corner for one last chance of claiming victory. With the try-line only metres away, the ball was spilled, bringing an end to a chaotic final five minutes of action.
Head coach Richard Cockerill's reaction
"We were inaccurate and we did exactly what we said we wouldn't do. The players have to learn their lessons very quickly because it's unacceptable really. We are better than that. I'm disappointed to say the least."
"This team has got a lot to learn and there will be bumps along the way – it was a pretty big bump this evening – so we’ve got exactly what we deserved. If we play like that and don’t do what we say we’re going to do, and we don’t have international players performing to a standard, then that’s exactly what you get, you get beaten. It’s not good enough."
"Every time you drop points when you shouldn’t, it’s going cost you at some point in the table. Tonight, we got one point, but its four points lost really, and that’s nothing else but our own making."