Edinburgh coach rules out glory but relishes Heineken test

Edinburgh coach rules out glory but relishes Heineken test

Pro14: Edinburgh 31-30 Benetton – Hosts cling on for bonus-point win

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.

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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 fierce pool which also includes French giants Montpellier and Toulon and the resurgent Newcastle Falcons, who will be motivated by the fact Mays finals weekend is at St James Park, is a daunting return to the competition and when asked why Edinburgh wont win it, Cockerills answer was equally blunt. Because there are a lot of better teams than us in it.. that is the reality of it, said the Englishman.

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.

Its a tough pool but that could be good for us, he said. For us as a club we have to learn to play at that level and win in Europe and do our best and try and put our best side out to win those games as realistic as that might or might not be, and then turn up and do it again. Our Scotland lads have to go and play Test matches.

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.

Edinburgh are focused on trying to bank Pro14 points after losing three out of four at the start of this season before that hard opening fixture away to Montpellier, who are coached by former Scotland boss Vern Cotter, and then a home clash with Toulon, with whom Cockerill spent six months as coach before joining Edinburgh last summer.

Gone are the days when Benetton were a one-dimensional soft-touch. Theyve 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.

We will go and learn to do that. The really good sides, the ones I have coached or watched, their players go every week and play at that level and learn to be consistent and learn to play at that level. It is bloody hard. As a team, and as a Scottish nation, we have to do it.

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. Edinburghs 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.

The target is to win as many games as we can, said Cockerill. The budget of the three teams we are playing far outspend us so you have to be realistic.

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 wasnt 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 couldnt 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, Edinburghs 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.

Benetton: Hayward; Tavuyara, Iannone, Morisi, Sperandio; Allan, Duvenage; Traore, Bigi, Riccioni, Fuser, Budd (capt), Negri, Barbini, Barbieri.

Chris Dean scored a try in the corresponding fixture at Myreside last season. Image Alastair Ross/Novantae Photography

NORTH Berwick rugby ace Chris Dean has kept his place in the Edinburgh Rugby side to face Italian outfit Benetton at BT Murrayfield tomorrow (Friday). 

He will again wear the number 13 jersey for his 68th appearance for the Capital club – Dean is joined by returning Scotland cap Matt Scott in midfield.

Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill has also recalled Scotland caps Blair Kinghorn and Henry Pyrgos to the backline, while up front there are returns for WP Nel, Grant Gilchrist, Hamish Watson and Stuart McInally, who captains the side. 

Edinburgh at web:


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