DAVID BARNES @ The DAM Health Stadium
A BONUS-POINT win which sees his team climb to second in the United Rugby Championship table – at least until Ulster play their game in hand away to Ospreys tomorrow [Saturday] afternoon – but Edinburgh head coach Mike Blair still wasn’t satisfied.
“We got a win but there is lot of things we can improve on and do better,” he said. “It is a bonus point win over a good Benetton side so we have to be happy with that, but I don’t think we entertained the crowd tonight. They won’t be going home saying they loved that performance.
“That sort of thing matters to me,” he added. “It is a big part of it … to want to entertain. The crowds have been coming here, and there is an expectation now. I am not saying we are going to throw the ball around Harlem Globetrotters-style, but it means we are accurate and play an attacking game that is not easy to defend, and is good to watch as well. I just thought it was a little bit flat tonight. You want everything … never satisfied.”
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Edinburgh threatened early when a half-charged down kick by Benetton ricocheted straight into Darcy Graham‘s hands, and the winger set off on a weaving run deep into the visiting 22, but a ruck offence a few phases later meant that attack came to nothing.
Instead, it was the Italians who drew first blood, with Leonardo Marin carrying on from where he left off against Glasgow last week by slotting three points in the seventh minute, after Hamish Watson was penalised for not rolling away.
Benetton were reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes after smart hands sent Watson galloping into space in the outside centre channel, with Emiliano Boffelli, Dave Cherry and Ben Vellacott carrying the move on. Dewaldt Duvange, the visiting captain, threw out a hand to stop a pass which could well have seen Watson finish the move he had started, and after a look at the big screen, referee Adam Jones pulled out his yellow card.
Edinburgh kicked to the corner then rumbled the maul infield, to create space coming back towards the touchline which Vellacott and Blair Kinghorn exploited when sending Graham in for the opening try.
Edinburgh struck again just after the 20 minute mark when Kinghorn collected a clearance just outside his own 22 and galloped through three tackles before sending a one-handed offload to Graham, who bounced a couple more tackles then set up a quick ruck, which allowed quick hands across the park to send Boffelli over on the left.
It looked like Benetton had pulled themselves back into it when Tommaso Menoncello broke the line and then offloaded to Michelo Lamoro, but Graham managed to pull the Italian flanker down and turn him onto his back as he skidded over the try-line, and the ball was fumbled as the visitors tried to recycle.
There was bad news for Edinburgh after the subsequent scrum when Viliame Mata suffered a lower limb injury as he tried to carry his team away from danger off the No 8 pick-up. He had a more than capable replacement in Jamie Ritchie. The hosts also lost Damien Hoyland before the break, with Charlie Savala coming on to play stand-off and Kinghorn moving out to the wing.
The last five or six minutes of the first half were fairly haphazard.
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Edinburgh laid down a marker early in the second half when Magnus Bradbury – making his 100th appearance for the club and eventually named man-of-the-match – ran hard off a line-out and was only stopped from scoring by some heroic scrambling play by Benetton.
Vellacott kept the pressure on with a break through midfield, and although Benetton initially did well to snaffle possession just 10 yards from their own line, they then shot themselves in the foot by throwing two loose passes as they tried to run their way out of the danger zone, leading to the ball falling loose in their in-goal area for Kinghorn to pounce and score.
It had been one-way traffic during the first 10 minutes, but Benetton are not the sort of team to just roll over, and their aggressive resistance began to unsettle the hosts.
The visitors battled their way from inside their own 22 all the way to Edinburgh’s line, and after kicking two penalties to the corner, and then battling through a dozen tight phases, they got their reward when replacement flanker Manuel Zuliani bustled over, setting up an easy conversion for Marin.
Given what happened to Glasgow last week, and to Edinburgh when these two sides met back in September, it had suddenly got a bit too close for comfort for the home side – but they held their nerve.
Replacement scrum-half Henry Pyrgos led the revival with a clever break up the blindside from a scrum on halfway. which created the field position for Stuart McInally to claim the bonus-point try a few minutes later, following a powerful line-out maul, finally killing off their plucky opponents with 13 minutes to go.
In fairness to Blair, he did acknowledge that winning momentum is not to be sniffed at. There is still a long way to go in this league, but five wins and a draw from seven matches played so far has put them in a strong position in the play-off race. The real tests will come when they start facing the big Irish provinces after the turn of the year, starting with Munster away on 19th February.
“As I said to the guys, it is a hell of a lot easier learning when you are winning,” reflected the coach. “We are trying to change what we are doing but it is not going to click straight away.
“In the game against the Dragons [last week] it did click, but we can’t expect that to happen every time. We should be learning when we are winning as we have a good enough squad to do that.”
Edinburgh: E Boffelli; D Graham, M Currie, J Lang (M Bennett 71), D Hoyland (C Savala 39); B Kinghorn (J Lang 72), B Vellacott (H Pyrgos 63); B Venter (P Schoeman 50), D Cherry (S McInally 50), L Atalifo (A Williams 61), J Hodgson (M Sykes 66), G Gilchrist, M Bradbury, H Watson, V Mata (J Ritchie 30).
Benetton: R Smith; R Tavuyara (E Padovani 24), I Brex, T Menoncello, M Ioane; L Marin (J Riera 71), D Duvenage (A Garbisi 71) ; F Zani (T Gallo 26), H Faiva (G Lucchesi 46), T Pasquali (I Nemer 46), N Cannone (C Wegner 34), F Ruzza, G Pettinelli (M Zuliani 46), M Lamaro, T Halafihi.
Referee: A Jones (Wales).
Edinburgh: Tries: Graham, Boffelli, Kinghorn, McInally; Con: Kinghorn 2
Benetton: Try: Zuliani; Con: Marin; Pen: Marin.
Scoring sequence (Edinburgh first): 0-3; 5-3; 10-3 (h-t) 15-3; 17-3; 17-8; 17-10; 22-10; 24-10.
Yellow cards –
Benetton: Duvenage (12mins)
Tennent’s Premiership preview – runners, riders and verdict for 4th December
Boffelli kicks for Argentina doesn’t he?
Good controlled performance against the spirited stuffy Italians, I reckon Mata going off had an impact on Edinburgh, with Watson not on top form the loss of Matas huge physicality was missed.
Bradbury was rightly MOM, looks in the form of his life.
Without splitting hairs, Edinburgh never lost control and the result never seriously looked in question. Some ragged line-outs, but that seems to be the Scottish way – both club and country need to improve. Bonus point in the bag, job done – and I love the way Edinburgh keep running and running at the opposition. Gregor clearly hasn’t settled on a number eight and the boy Bradbury is now sticking his hand up big time. Big, strong, Athletic, aggressive, abrasive. Just what is needed at the back. Good timing to run back into form.
Nice to hear Mikes comments about wanting to entertain and being a bit disappointed. Having just returned from the match I would agree with his comments. Some good moments but a few lost line outs and ruck turnovers lost momentum too often. However its not bad when you don’t play your best and still get a bonus point win. Benetton are always a difficult side to put away and it was good to see Bradbury playing well again. Im not sure why Boffelli isn’t taking the penalty kicks as I thought he was a kicker. Kinghorn is a dangerous runner at stand-off which is great but needs to work on his kicking which is a bit mixed.
Boffelli has been kicking for Argentina recently, but form memory not a top % success. Think he has been kicking only because they have dropped Sanchez and are basically playing a recently converted winger at 10, while new Glasgow 10 Miotti has been on and off the bench (he is a goal kicker).
Kinghorn has clearly been working on his 10 role, but not enough on his kicking – from hand and tee. He has been a better kicker than recent performances
yes agree with both, enjoyed the game, but not having a 90% kicker will catch us out soon. Is Savala a good? Not sure if we lost our way in the second half because he wasn’t controlling or there were other factors?
Great to be so far up the table even if there are harder games to come.