THE normally-reliable Jaco van der Walt missed two late chances for Edinburgh to seize victory in Treviso last night, leaving Richard Cockerill’s team with only a losing bonus to show for their efforts.
The stand-off, it should be said, was far from the only player who made mistakes in a game where heavy rain made enterprising play difficult. Indeed, Benetton’s open score came from a spill by Magnus Bradbury, while both lineouts malfunctioned badly.
Edinburgh produced the best move of the game by far, an enthralling counter-attack which led to Luke Crosbie‘s try. In the end, though, and even allowing for the effects of the heavy rain, it was a disappointing outcome from an often-dreary match.
Benetton were rewarded for an inventive and energetic start when they took an early lead through Jayden Hayward. That spill by Bradbury had given the Italians a scrum in good position, and after several futile phases of forward play, an exquisite chip ahead by Tommaso Allan sat up perfectly on the bounce for the full-back to gather. Allan converted, then swapped penalties with Van der Walt to put his team 10-3 ahead.
Edinburgh roused themselves towards the end of the first quarter, initially in defence, when they twice won crucial turnovers, and then in offense, when a superb counter-attack brought them a full score. Damien Hoyland began the move from deep, then Mark Bennett carried on into the Benetton half before his chip took a helpful deflection straight into the arms of the supporting Crosbie.
Benetton suffered a big dip in energy for a time after that score, but when Jamie Bhatti was yellow-carded for an off-the-ball tackle that appeared more clumsy than malicious, they regained the lead within a minute with an unconverted try. Their first assault on the line from the scrum penalty ended when Ratuva Tavuyara knocked on with the line at his mercy, but they made no mistake at the second time of asking, with hooker Tomas Baravalle executing well from the maul.
Conceding so quickly was an ominous sign for the 14 men, but they ended the half on top and might well have taken the lead before the break, but were denied by strong defence during five minutes of trench warfare. In the end that defence was illegal, allowing Van der Walt to close the gap with a penalty, the last action of the half.
With conditions no better and bodies tiring, the second half was even more of an attritional affair than the first. Van der Walt soon nudged his team in front for the first time with a penalty, but before the hour was up Allan restored his side’s advantage with another three-pointer. The Italian and the South African were both off target with subsequent efforts, and when Van der Walt missed again with four minutes to play, Edinburgh’s hopes of a late riposte were gone.
Teams – Benetton: J Hayward; R Tavuyara, I Brex, T Benvenuti, A Esposito; T Allan (captain), D Duvenage; F Zani, T Baravalle, T Pasquali, I Herbst, E Snyman, S Negri, A Steyn, T Halafihi. Subs: H Faiva, C Traore, M Mancini Parri, N Cannone, F Ruzza, G Pettinelli, T Tebaldi, A Rizzi.
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; E Sau, M Bennett, M Scott, D Hoyland; J van der Walt, H Pyrgos (captain); J Bhatti, M Willemse, P Ceccarelli, F McKenzie, L Carmichael, A Miller, L Crosbie, M Bradbury. Subs: D Cherry, P Schoeman, M McCallum, S Thomson, V Mata, N Groom, S Hickey, G Taylor.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales).
Scoring sequence (Benetton first): 5-0, 7-0, 7-3, 10-3, 10-8, 10-10, 15-10, 15-13 half-time, 15-16, 18-16.
Scorers: Benetton: Tries: Hayward, Baravalle. Con: Allan. Pens: Allan 2.
Edinburgh: Try: Crosbie. Con: Van der Walt. Pens: Van der Walt 3.
Yellow card: Edinburgh: Bhatti.