Benetton v Edinburgh: visitors flop against 14-man Italians

Mike Blair's side fail to take advantage of Matteo Minozzi being red-carded after 10 minutes, as well as Italian's picking up two yellow-cards during second half

Henry Immelman scored two tries in a losing cause for Edinburgh versus Benetton. Image: ©Craig Watson
Henry Immelman scored two tries in a losing cause for Edinburgh versus Benetton. Image: ©Craig Watson

Benetton 24

Edinburgh 17

DESPITE their opponents picking up a red-card after just 10 minutes, and being reduced to 13 men by yellow-cards twice during match, Edinburgh could not impose themselves and ended up suffering a demoralising defeat in Treviso.

They were bullied out of the contest at the breakdown by a Benetton team who gave a masterclass in how to play with a man (or more) less. Mike Blair‘s side had travelled to Italy looking for a third away win on the bounce, but they were sent home with their tails between their legs, knowing that a significant improvement will be required when Munster come calling at the DAM Health Stadium next weekend.

Afterwards, Blair was tight-lipped about whether this result will change his thinking on how quickly he re-introduces his rested international contingent, but he did concede that the performance fell well below the standards the squad demand of themselves.

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“It’s definitely disappointing,” said the head coach. “We knew this was going to be a really tough game with the team that they picked. Benetton were excellent and managed the game really well after the red card. They were really smart. But I said to the players at half-time that the game was still in our hands.

“We’ve seen it before, though, with red cards and how it can really galvanise a team. It brings emotion into it and gives them that backs-to-the-wall type of mentality. But we’ve got to be better than that. We’ve got to see that as an opportunity. I think we waited and thought that [the red card] was going to be the thing that won us the game.

“But that wasn’t the case. It’s your physicality, your relentless nature of attack, persistence in defence, your smarts – that’s what wins you games.  Collectively, we were just off it.

“This period is an opportunity for the club,” he added in an attempt to hit a more positive tone. “This group of players won away against Zebre and Cardiff, so there’s been some real positives.

“This was a tough game to come back to after the break for a few weeks. We were just off it in a couple of areas and that’s something we need to fix moving forward to next week.”


Edinburgh started positively and took the lead through a second minute penalty from Charlie Savala, and the odds swung further in their favour when Matteo Minozzi raised his boot after collecting a high ball in the air and caught Wes Goosen in the face, resulting in a red-card just 10 minutes into his debut for the club.

But it was Benetton who reacted most positively to this match-defining moment, scrambling a turnover for Tomas Albornoz to send a 50-22 downfield, setting up a spell of pressure which eventually yielded a penalty in front of the posts from a Marshall Sykes high-tackle. The hosts opted for the scrum and were rewarded for their ambition when a long pass from Albornoz straight from the set-piece created the space for Marcus Watson to scurry over on the right.

Questions will be asked during the de-brief of this match as to how the six attackers of Benetton managed to outflank the seven defenders of Edinburgh off first phase ball (centre Matt Currie defending out of position on the wing as Goosen undertook an HIA is no excuse).

Benetton attacked again straight from the restart and it took some excellent work from Jamie Hodgson to turn Lorenzo Cannone onto his back in the tackle and win a holding-on penalty which allowed Edinburgh to activate the pressure-release valve.

Benetton compounded that first penalty with another one straight from the line-out when Nahuel Tatez Chapparo impeded Henry Pyrgos at the back of the maul from an offside position, but handling errors and soft turnovers meant that the visitors could not build any momentum and they soon found themselves defending desperately on their own line again.

After a sequence of penalties was conceded by the bedraggled Scottish side, Goosen saw yellow for offside, and Pyrgos was lucky not to receive the same sanction and a penalty try less than two minutes later for a deliberate knock-on on his own line, but referee Craig Evans decide that the covering Henry Immelman was in a position to prevent the try.

Benetton kept pushing the accelerator, and got their reward when Watson punched up the middle off scrum ball before scrum-half Dewaldt Duvenage sent a long pass back towards the right wing, where Goosen was taking his enforced sabbatical on the naughty step, and Sebastian Negri was lurking unmarked to finish off.

Edinburgh’s front-row were aggrieved that had been held onto by their opposite numbers at the scrum meaning they were slow in joining the defensive line, but them’s the breaks when you are on the back-foot.


The visitors started the second 40 minutes in fine fashion with Damien Hoyland chasing down Pyrgos’ box-kick and Savala delaying his pass perfectly to send Immelman over for their opening try of the contest, and Savala converted to make it all-square.

However, a sloppy knock-on from Immelman and a dominant home scrum allowed Benetton to immediately reclaim the initiative with yet another penalty kicked to the corner, from which Lorenzo Cannone scrambled over for home try number three.

Edinburgh tried to battle their way back to scoreboard parity and spent several minutes deep in Benetton’s 22, but their attack lacked incision, and despite the hosts being reduced to 13 men when Federico Ruzza was sin-binned as a team punishment for persistent infringements, they couldn’t find a way through until just a few minutes left of that period with two extra men (in fact Benetton were down to 11 at this point as two players were down injured).

Nick Haining stepped back inside and strode through three tackles then released Immelman on the right with a basketball style pass, and Savala nailed the touchline conversion to make it all square at the start of the final quarter.

But once again Edinburgh failed to build on the promising position they had battled themselves into, and Benetton once again showed their ability and character with another forceful passage of play which culminated in Duvenage sending an exquisite chip into the in-goal area for Rhyno Smith to race onto and score, setting up an easy conversion for Jacob Umaga which made it a seven-point game once again.

Edinburgh tried to rouse themselves during the final 10 minutes, and Benetton made life hard for themselves by missing touch from a scrum penalty, then picking up another yellow-card and a penalty just outside their own 22 when Smith caught Ben Vellacott with a swinging arm at the back of a ruck. But the visitors twice failed to control possession at the back of the line-out maul, meaning they returned home with just a losing bonus point.


Teams –

Benetton: R Smith; M Watson (T Menoncello 58), I Brex, M Zanon, M, Minozzi; T Albornoz (J Umaga 54), D Duvenage (A Garbisi 78),; N Tetaz-Chapparo (I Nemer 49, S Ferrari 71), G Lucchesi ( G Nicotera 49), S Ferrari (T Pasquali, 40), (S Scrafton 49, G Lucchesi 63), F Ruzza, S Negri (N Cannone 61), M Zuliani (G Pettinelli 61), L Cannone.

Edinburgh: H Immelman; D Hoyland, M Currie (C Dean 65), J Lang, W Goosen (C Dean 13-23); C Savala, H Pyrgos (B Vellacott 55); B Venter (J Jack, 77), S McInally (P Harrison 71), A Williams (L Atalifo 55), M Sykes, J Hodgson (G Young 69), M Haining, L Crosbie, B Muncaster (C Boyle 58).


Scorers –

Benetton: Try: Watson, Negri, L Cannone, Smith; Con: Albornoz, Umaga.

Edinburgh: Try: Immelman 2; Con: Savala 2; Pen: Savala.

Scoring sequence (Benetton first): 0-3; 5-3; 10-3 (h-t) 10-8; 10-10; 15-10; 17-10; 17-15; 17-17; 22-17; 24-17.


Yellow cards –

Benetton: Ruzza (53mins), Smith (78mins)

Edinburgh: Goosen (33mins)


Red cards –

Benetton: Minozzi (10mins)

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About David Barnes 3532 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. Where was Bennett for one – he hardly needed resting?
    Appalling selection by Blair. Where were e.g.Bennet and Kinghorn – they hardly needed resting after little game time, and Edinburgh back to being bullied all over the park. There was only one team there with any real desire.

  2. Utterly abysmal peormance.A lot of the blame must land on both coach and captain.There was a period when they were down to 13 men when I think on at least four occasions we played a game of “kick tennis” with them and continually kicked backed to them.Why on earth did someone not get a message on (though catain should have done this anywa\y) to keep the ball in hand? Not only did it help Benetton run down the clock but surely we simply needed to run at a tiring defence that was two men down.Unbelievable!
    And to suggest that was a wqeak inexperienced team 2ndXV doesn’t stand up.Despite the missing internationalists that was still a pretty strong team on paper (ok in our “rose tinted eyes” no doubt) with no rookies.More than enough to win if we applied any “rugby intelligence”.Four points thrown away like the Lions game.So once again we’ll be scraping for the play offs/ERC qualification rather than making a serious bid for the top four.Huge pity after that superb showing in Cardiff which seems an age ago now.

    • Sir, I was roaring at the TV -“dont kick it away, go through the phases” – it appears that Pygros in the team showed a negativity/perhaps respecting Benetton too much, Vellacott should’ve started and ran at them from the outset, Nel & Dean should’ve started.

    • I’ve said this 1,000 times. There’s no evidence of a high rugby IQ in either the pro teams or the international squad. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of rugby nous in evidence. We do stupid things at times.

  3. RIP Doddie Weir
    Re the Edinburgh game, a quite horrible defeat, no control whatsoever, Pygros kicked everything away and Savala (who looked good when he had the ball) obviously not trusted as Immelman took on a lot of kicking / receiving.
    VDW and his game would’ve been very handy but he didn’t leave the bench.
    There was one an example where Crosbie made hard hards only for Pygros to boot the ball aimlessly away.
    Also having watched a lot of rugby in last month / in my life in appears to me that Scotland Edinburgh Glasgow do make a lot of unforced errors compared to their peers.

  4. Sadly it shows that Edinburgh lack strength in depth a game that should have been won was thrown away. Forwards bullied backs with little flair. Worst performance this season 5 points given up.

  5. Just watched the game, pathetic probably sums up this Edinburgh performance!! Coaching issues & players in comfort zone.

  6. Managed to watch the first half and it was probably the worst 40 minutes I have seen from Edinburgh this season. I know this was not a full strength team but it was a group who won away to Cardiff and Zebre so they had the potential to win this. To be fair to Bennetton they played well with 14 men and had a strong team out but we failed to do the basics at the breakdown where we seemed to get turned over at nearly every ruck and then the old failing of multiple penalties. This allowed them to dominate territory. Edinburgh do have a strong squad and are capable of winning these games but not today.

    Don’t agree with the comments about writing off certain games. This was the right game to rest players but we need to play at full strength for Munster and Leinster. If we want to get top 4 we need to win these games. OK well probably never win the Heineken but you still need to give it your best shot.

  7. Sadly, a performance worthy of a Scottish team, although GT managed to scrape a couple of wins against Fiji and Argentina in not dissimilar circumstances recently. Simply not good enough with a man advantage for so long. Blair’s first honeymoon season was helped by an easier lead-in fixture list but the team just scraped into qualifying at the end. It will be a struggle again as reality kicks in, even when the international players are allowed to play.

    If Wales remove Pivac, they could maybe do Scotland a favour and recruit Townsend.

  8. Blair needs to look at the fixture list and decide which league matches are winnable before going all in with his strongest team. Edinburgh are not going to win the Heineken Champions Cup so those fixtures need to be written off I am afraid. Leinster at home is another one for the backup players.

    • Agree. MB’s comments suggest he would have fielded another line up if he had known Benetton were going fully loaded. They clearly targeted this game against a team in their own pool, whereas we look to have held back players for the European and Glasgow games. Perhaps playing some of our lightly used Scotland stars -eg Kinghorn, Bennet would have gained a win against the 6 opposition backs. Hindsight is always key. However the league is our bread and butter with qualification for Europe so important to financial resource. So a potential 5 points dropped to the teams we could be scrapping with at the end of the season.

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