Pro14: Benetton 18-10 Edinburgh- Hosts boost play-off hopes with win
|Guinness Pro14: Benetton v Edinburgh|
|Benetton 18 (3)|
|Tries: Cannone, Rizzi Con: Rizzi Pens: McKinley, Rizzi|
|Edinburgh 10 (3)|
|Tries: Johnstone Con: Van der Walt Pen: Van der Walt|
Benetton dealt Edinburgh's Pro14 play-off hopes a huge blow as they triumphed in an absorbing contest in Treviso.
Niccolo Cannone crossed for the hosts, before James Johnstone's try and Jaco van der Walt's boot had them 10-8 behind after a first-half penalty each.
But Benetton persevered, Antonio Rizzi coming off the bench to score a try and a penalty to seal a vital win.
The result means Benetton strengthen their grip on second spot in Conference B, while Edinburgh stay fourth.
But they could slip to fifth behind Scarlets if the Welsh side beat Munster on Saturday evening, their play-off hopes now hanging by a thread.
Bruising first half yields little
The Pro14 takes a backseat during the Six Nations, but the importance of this match could not be understated in the context of the Conference B play-off race. Edinburgh uncharacteristically slipped up at home last week against Cardiff Blues and dropped out of the top three.
Beforehand, head Richard Cockerill said Edinburgh "need to win" and there was no question he meant it with just five games left. Easier said than done, though, against a Benetton side undefeated in eight and imperious at home.
Van Der Walt kicked the visitors in front after just two minutes but thereafter it was all about the strength of the defences. As Edinburgh built ominously, twice Benetton snaffled the ball at the breakdown.
Similarly as the Italian side pressed - passing up two kickable penalties to go for the corner - Johnstone and Luke Crosbie produced important turnovers.
There were brutal hits and errors aplenty, and after messing up another lineout, Benetton elected to finally give Ian McKinley the chance to tie the game, which he duly took.
Livewire wing Monty Ioane did cross for the hosts, but it was correctly ruled out for a forward pass. And after more fruitless attack from both, the players entered the sheds with the match finely poised.
Benetton show their class
Five minutes into the second half, and the game's first try arrived and it was Benetton who got it. A squint line-out throw five metres from their own line from Edinburgh handed the Italian side a scrum, and a platform.
The visitors held out for a few phases before Cannone battered his way over, helped by second-row partner Irne Herbst. McKinley missed the relatively simple conversion.
Edinburgh's attack had looked blunt all afternoon, but the ever-impressive Johnstone sparked them to life with a superb finish. Just outside the Benetton 22, he stepped inside his opposite number Marco Zanon to sprint through, stepping out of two tackles to touch down. Van der Walt converted and Edinburgh were in front by two points
The contest was as absorbing as it was frustrating, with the attack as poor as the defence was outstanding.
Then, with Benetton on the attack, Pierre Schoemann was pinged for offside, and with the advantage Ioane grubbered over the Edinburgh try-line.
The winger, replacement Rizzi and Edinburgh's Tom Brown hared after it. All three dived towards the ball, and after a TMO review, the try was awarded to Rizzi despite the footage seeming inconclusive. He converted his own score and the hosts' lead was five points with 10 minutes left.
And what a frantic 10 minutes they were, with possession changing hands almost with every phase. But ultimately, Edinburgh shot themselves in the foot. A knock-on, then ill-discipline gave Rizzi the chance to seal victory with his boot.
He did so and sparked wild celebrations among his team-mates, as they took a huge step towards a play-off spot, as Kieran Crowley's revolution continues.
As for Edinburgh, there is no room for error in their final four games if they're to get into the play-offs for a second year running, which looks increasingly unlikely.
Benetton: Sperandio, Tavuyara, Zanon, Sgarbi, Ioane, McKinley, Duvenage, Quaglio, Baravalle, Riccioni, Herbst, Cannone, Lazzaroni, Pettinelli, Halafihi.
Replacements: Faiva, Appiah, Pasquali, Barbieri, Barbini, Bronzini, Rizzi, Benvenuti.
Edinburgh: Brown, Hoyland, Johnstone, Dean, Blain, Van der Valt, Pyrgos, Schoeman, Cherry, Nel, McKenzie, Hunter-Hill, Crosbie, Watson, Miller.
Replacements: Ford, Sutherland, Ceccarelli, Toolis, Nayalo, Fowles, Hickey, Bennett.