Pro14: Edinburgh 31-30 Benetton - Hosts cling on for bonus-point win
|Edinburgh (24) 31|
|Tries: Scott, Van der Merwe, Kinghorn, Fife Cons: Hickey 2 Pen: Hickey|
|Benetton (15) 30|
|Tries: Sperandio 3, Fuser, Barbini Con: Allan Pen: Allan|
Edinburgh held off a Benetton fightback to earn a nerve-shredding bonus-point win in a Pro14 try-fest.
First-half scores from Matt Scott, Duhan van der Merwe and Blair Kinghorn put the hosts in command, despite Luca Sperandio and Marco Fuser crossing.
Dougie Fife touched down to secure the bonus point early in the second period.
Sperandio bagged two more tries and Marco Barbini crossed to cut the deficit to a point, but the hosts clung on with Grant Gilchrist in the sin-bin.
The Italian side out-scored Edinburgh by five tries to four, but paid the price for missing all but one of their conversion attempts with Tommaso Allan and Ian McKinley wayward off the tee.
Benetton take home a four-try bonus point and a losing bonus point for finishing within seven points of their opponents.
'Reborn Benetton give Edinburgh a scare'
With only one win from their opening four games - three of them tough assignments on the road - this was one Edinburgh had to win get some momentum into their season. Richard Cockerill brought back many of the heavies he rested last weekend against Leinster in Dublin and they got the job done. Just.
Gone are the days when Benetton were a one-dimensional soft-touch. They've been reborn as a skilful, ambitious, off-loading threat. In Sperandio they had a 22-year-old hat-trick man. His third score, in particular, was a wondrous finish.
Allan and Simon Hickey traded penalties early on, but when Edinburgh hit the visitors with two tries in four minutes midway through the half they got themselves a cushion.
Scott sliced between two defenders as Allan bungled a Henry Pyrgos box-kick, then Hickey brilliantly slipped in Van der Merwe. The fly-half converted both tries to put Edinburgh 17-3 up.
That lead was eaten into when Sperandio stepped Van Der Merwe for his first try, but home advantage was restored when Chris Dean scythed through the defence and fed Kinghorn who scored with ease.
The conversion made it a 16-point game, but Edinburgh could never quite shake off the visitors. Their attack was sharp, but some of their defence was weaker than weak. Fuser went over off a driven line-out just before the break to bring the gap down to nine.
It was breathless stuff at times. Edinburgh's bonus point try came nine minutes into the new half when they went left off a scrum, then whipped around and attacked down the right, Kinghorn throwing a gorgeous pass out to Fife who motored on to stretch the advantage to 29-15. That became 31-15 when Hickey landed the conversion.
'Edinburgh get off the hook'
A 16-point game once more. Edinburgh on easy street? No. They lost control of the game and Sperandio scored again on 52 minutes when the home defence got sucked in and Benetton hit them on the outside.
He scored a quite brilliant try nine minutes later to complete his treble. Sperandio went haring up the right wing, got tackled about five metres short but wasn't held, then popped back up and went again.
He launched himself for the corner with Pyrgos and Kinghorn trying to batter him into touch. They couldn't do it. Under all sorts of pressure, Sperandio got the ball down. Wonderful.
Having missed two of their three conversions earlier in the game, McKinley then made it three out of four. How they will rue those missed points.
There was a tension about Edinburgh now. They had a six-point lead, but Benetton were the dominant team and all the more dominant when Gilchrist was binned nine minutes from the end. In the next play, a close-range line-out maul, Benetton struck once more when Barbini went over at the side of a ruck.
Again, Edinburgh's defence had been awful. And again, fortunately for them, Benetton missed the conversion. McKinley miscued it to the right of the posts, a dreadful waste that ultimately allowed a seriously stressed Edinburgh off the hook.
Edinburgh: Kinghorn; Fife, Dean, Scott , Van der Merwe; Hickey, Pyrgos; Dell, McInally (capt), Nel, Toolis, Gilchrist, Bradbury, Watson, Mata.
Replacements: Cherry, Sutherland, McCallum, McKenzie, Ritchie, Fowles, Graham, Socino.
Benetton: Hayward; Tavuyara, Iannone, Morisi, Sperandio; Allan, Duvenage; Traore, Bigi, Riccioni, Fuser, Budd (capt), Negri, Barbini, Barbieri.
Replacements: Makelara, Appiah, Ferrari, Ruzza, Lazzaroni, Gori, McKinley, Brex.
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)