Benetton V Edinburgh
Edinburgh suffered a disappointing defeat away to Conference B rivals Benetton this afternoon as the Italian side staged a second-half comeback to seal the hard-earned victory in Treviso.
With the match all-square at the break, there was few and far between the two sides in a turgid and physical opening 40 minutes of rugby.
However, the hosts took the lead only six minutes into the second period when second-row Niccolo Cannone bruised his way over the whitewash from short distance.
The capital side battled back to take the lead through James Johnstone’s expertly taken score, but that was as good as it was to get for Edinburgh as the Italians quickly rallied.
With 10 minutes remaining, the hosts took the lead – despite the grounding of the try going to TMO - through replacement Antonio Rizzi’s chip and chase.
And when Rizzi nailed a penalty late on, the stand-off not only added gloss to the scoreline, but added insult to injury for the capital side – nullifying a potential losing bonus point.
Speaking following the match, Head Coach Richard Cockerill, said: “Look, in isolation it’s disappointing but I just said to the boys, we’ve got four games to go.
“There is every chance we can qualify in that top three and we will fight every inch to make sure that we do that.
“Our season is very much alive but when you get an opportunity you have to take it and although it’s hard work in the Six Nations period, we have to deal with that.”
It was a steady start for Richard Cockerill’s side as scrum-half Henry Pyrgos orchestrated an attack deep into Benetton territory. As the hosts were penalised almost straight away at the breakdown, Jaco van der Walt made them pay with a well struck penalty from 40 metres out [0-3].
With their tails up, the capital side continued to look sharp and after referee George Clancy penalised the hosts following a solid scrum, Van der Walt was quick to nudge one deep inside the Benneton 22m to pile on the pressure.
It was soon the hosts turn to attack, however, as McKinley guided a penalty just shy of Edinburgh’s try-line. However, with Benetton driving towards the whitewash, James Johnstone came up big with a massive tackle and steal. Henry Pyrgos was quick to send a box-kick just shy of half-way.
With Benetton continuing to keep the ball, the capital side’s defence was being tested, and although it was often bending, it refused to break.
That was until Benetton got their first points of the afternoon. As McKinley guided over a penalty, the score was level at 3-3, which it stayed up until half-time.
The hosts shot out of the blocks to start the second half and very quickly took the lead. Following a number of bruising carries, the ball was eventually recycled to Cannone who powered his way over the try-line. With McKinley’s conversion striking the post, it was 8-3.
Edinburgh recated well to the early setback, however and it wasn’t long until the capital side were in to Benetton territory. As Chris Dean guided a tasty grubber only metres short of the hosts’ try-line, the pressure was on.
And that territorial advantage soon paid off as Johnstone scored the go-ahead score. After hitting a sumptuous line, the outside-centre showcased his quick-feet to scamper over the whitewash. As Van der Walt stroked it home, the visitors were in the lead [8-10].
The score soon spurred the home side in to action, and despite the best efforts in defence, Benetton were picking up huge chunks of territory with both wingers Ratuva Tavuyara and Monty Ioane showcasing their abilities out wide.
And Benetton would take the lead on 69 minutes. With a penalty advantage and with their backline in possession of the ball inside the 22m, replacement Rizzi showed quick thinking to chip ahead in to the Edinburgh whitewash.
With both sides scrambling for the ball, Rizzi outpaced everyone to get a single hand on the ball for what would be the game winning score [15-10].
With the clock ticking towards 80 minutes, Edinburgh had chances to steal possession, but when the host won a series of penalties at the breakdown – one of which, Rizzi converted on the final whistle – the match was all but over [18-10].
Richard Cockerill’s side will now have two weeks to regroup as Leinster are the visitors to BT Murrayfield on Friday 22 March