Edinburgh resist last minute pressure to win only their second RaboDirect match of the season.
Italian visitors, Benetton Treviso, were the opposition at Murrayfield on Friday night. Welcomed by an expectant 4,000-ish spectators following the win over Munster in the Heineken Cup, Treviso have made great strides in their short RaboDirect ‘career’, so are not the pushovers they were once seen to be.
However, they looked to be very pushover-able as, straight from the whistle, Edinburgh were deep inside the visitors half with wave after wave of penetrating attacks. Three minutes in and they were across the line, but Greg Laidlaw had lost the ball forward so a scrum five metres out was the call. The Italians choose to run rather than kick, which eventually lead to Edinburgh regaining possession and getting back on the offensive. This period of attacking play culminated in the opening try after 11 minutes of play. The ball was bashed up through the defence by the forwards before being swung out wide where Greg Tonks got round the outside of the defence to go over in the corner. Laidlaw scored the kick and the score was 7-0 to the home side. Treviso had a few minutes of possession, and indeed almost scored a try, but Nick De Luca (Man-of-the-Match) saved the day with a last ditch tackle on scrum half, Fabio Semenzato.
Edinburgh were soon back on their game, with centres De Luca and Matt Scott puting in some hard yards to drive the ball up the field. With 22 minutes on the clock, Tim Visser broke up the middle, but a seemingly innocuous tackle left the Dutchman writhing on the ground with what appeared to be a serious ankle injury. The medical staff were soon on hand and, suitably entenoxed and splinted, Visser was wheeled from the pitch and, probably, straight across the road to Murrayfield Hospital. Edinburgh then got right back to business and were coming at Treviso from all angles, but with five minutes of play left, the visitors were awarded a penalty on one of their rare visits to the home side’s half, which stand-off, James Ambrosini, saw over to close the score to 7-3. However, the half ended with a penalty to Edinburgh right on the whistle, which Laidlaw successfully kicked to leave the score 10-3 at the break.
Early in the second half, the visitors had much more of the ball, although a lot of it was in their own half, so it was to be 15 minutes before Edinburgh were back on the scoreboard as they were awarded a, successfully kicked, penalty for a ruck infringement. 13-3 to the hosts. From the restart, however, Treviso quickly gained possession of the ball and went on a rare offensive, driving Edinburgh back into their own 22 and, following quick ball from a ruck, Luke McLean forced his way over the line for the visitors only try. Ambrosini scored the conversion and Edinburgh were looking at a less pleasing 13-10. Five minutes later, with 67 minutes on the clock, Ambrosini scored with a penalty to draw the sides agonisingly – for the home supporters – level. Treviso now seemed to have the upper hand and Edinburgh just couldn’t get hands on the ball. With just over six minutes of play left, though, Treviso were turned over at a ruck deep inside Edinburgh’s half and Laidlaw cleared with a huge kick in behind the visitors defence. De Luca and Jack Cuthbert chased off at a tremendous rate and collected the ball and Brendan Williams and drove them both over the sideline. Winning a rare lineout – Treviso had the Edinburgh lineout on the rack all night – the ball was passed into the centre where Willem Nel charged through and dived over for a try next to the posts. Laidlaw again scored with the kick and the score was 20-13 with less than five minutes left. And what a nervous five minutes it was, as Treviso attacked and probed at the Edinburgh defence deep in their 22, almost breaking through a couple of times, but the home side managed to hold them out and hold them up as the match finished with the ball being trapped inside a collapsed maul. Referee, Alain Roland blew up for full time and it was more a loud sigh of relief than a loud roar of triumph that swept round the ground.
So, Phew! This was a highly entertaining match and a rare-ish home side Rabo win, spoiled a bit by Visser’s injury. It is probable that he will be out of action for a lengthy period, so both Edinburgh and Scotland will be without their ‘try machine’ for a few months to come. Late in the second half, the Edinburgh coaching staff must have held their collective breaths for a long time as David Denton went to ground from a lineout, clutching his leg and with his foot appearing to be at a funny angle. Fortunately, it turned out to be ‘only’ cramp and you could almost hear those breaths being released. Another home match next week where the visiting side are the other Italians, Zebre.