Benetton Rugby 13
DOUGIE FIFE’S remarkable recovery from the rugby scrapheap continued with two tries which took Edinburgh within a whisper of a bonus point victory away to a Benetton Treviso side riding high on confidence after two very competitive performances away to Bath and at home to Toulon during the last fortnight.
In the end, the Scots had to settle for just a straight win, which is a no mean feat on the road against a resurgent Italian side which they lost at home to just over a month ago.
Fife was discarded by Edinburgh just under 18 months ago, but grasped a rugby lifeline with the Scotland 7s squad last season. He has impressed new Richard Cockerill this season, who had made it clear that he would like to bring the winger back into they fold on a more permanent basis, and has clearly also made a good impression on Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend, who included him on Tuesday in the Scotland training squad for next month’s autumn Test series.
On this evidence, the only real question is how it got to a stage where former Edinburgh head coach Alan Solomons was allowed to discard a player with so much to offer as easily as he did at the end of the 12015-16 season.
The capital outfit started the match well when Sam Hidalgo-Clyne finished off a sweeping attack involving Phil Burleigh, Blair Kinghorn and James Johnstone to give his team the lead after just three minutes, and Jason Tovey sent home the conversion.
Burleigh thought he had extended his team’s advantage in the 16th minute after latching onto a clever chip ahead but a knock-on was spotted, and a minute later Tovey missed a penalty shot at goal.
Tovey then threw a magical dummy and broke clear but was hauled down short the line by some excellent home cover defence.
Benetton were reduced to fourteen man for ten minute when blindside flanker Francesco Minto was sent to the sin-bin for a late tackle, but they reacted well with Ian McKinley kicking two penalties in the final five minutes of the first half to make it a one-point fame at the break.
The hosts built on the momentum they had generated at the end of the first half when they came out for the second period, and they grabbed the lead when lock Marco Fuser sent winger Angelo Esposito over.
After two good victories on the road versus London Irish and Krasny Yar in the European Challenge Cup, there seems to be a level of belief in this Edinburgh team which has been conspicuously absent in recent seasons, and they responded excellently to falling behind for the first time.
Kinghorn burst onto Tovey’s pass from an attacking scrum to draw two defenders before releasing Dougie Fife for the visitors’ second try.
Tovey added the conversion from the touchline, and followed that up with a penalty which put Edinburgh 13-17 ahead with 16 minutes to play.
They now went in hunt of the bonus point, and Chris Dean combined with Burleigh to send Kinghorn clear, before Fife appeared on his right to take a well-timed pass and claim try number three.
Tovey kicked the conversion and Edinburgh pressed for the fourth try but Glenn Bryce was bundled into touch as he stretched for the line.
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; D Fife, J Johnstone, P Burleigh, J Harries; J Tovey, S Hidalgo-Clyne; D Marfo, S McInally, WP Nel, F McKenzie (capt), B Toolis, L Crosbie, H Watson, C du Preez. Subs: N Cochrane, M Rizzo, M McCallum, G Gilchrist, L Carmichael, N Fowles, G Bryce, C Dean.
Benetton Rugby: J Hayward; A Esposito, I Brex, A Sgarbi, L Sperandio; I McKinley, T Tebaldi; F Zani, L Bigi, S Ferrari, M Fuser, D Budd, F Minto, A Steyn, R Barbieri. Subs: T Baravalle, C Traore, T Pasquali, F Ruzza, A Zanni, S Negri, G Bronzini, T Benvenuti.
Benetton: Try: Esposito; Con: Mckinley; Pens: McKinley 2
Edinburgh: Tries: Hidalgo-Clyne, Fife 2; Cons: Tovey 3; Pen: Tovey.
Scoring sequence (Benetton first): 0-5; 0-7; 3-7; 6-7 (h-t) 11-7; 13-7; 13-14; 13-17; 13-22; 13-24
Yellow cards –
Benetton: Minto (31mins)