A NINE-TRY spectacular saw Edinburgh bring a run of three defeats to an end last night as they put hapless Benetton to the sword.
Duhan van der Merwe celebrated his return to the ranks with two touchdowns and his fellow winger Darcy Graham also bagged a brace, but the pack also contributed powerfully with the team’s first three tries of the night.
The Italians had won three of their first four outings in the URC, but there was little sign of that form here. They were stuffy in defence in the first half, conceding only two tries to go in at the break just 12-3 behind. But that deficit was despite the advantage of a considerable wind – and when Edinburgh had that at their backs, they ran riot.
“It is a decent 12-, 14-point wind,” home coach Mike Blair said. “And when we gave away the first three points in the first few minutes I thought we had given them an extra three points to start with.
“We controlled territory in that first half as well as you can into the wind. Then when we got points after half time it gave us some impetus and we were able to stay on top of Benetton after that.
“They made a few changes from last week, but they had quality players and an international front row so they still had a strong team and still needed putting away. But our energy and intent was better tonight.”
Blair invariably remains calm at the end of games no matter their outcome, and he was certainly not getting carried away by this result, no matter how pleased he must have been by the form shown by his players.
“We had a quality side out and the expectation on us is to do well,” he continued. “We focus on the privilege of playing, the enjoyment of playing in front of our fans and showing them what we can do and not worrying that we have to win.
“I want us to enjoy being out here. Part of the enjoyment is going into the dressing room feeling we have been ruthless and not taken the foot of the throat. I was pleased with that.”
After Tomas Albornoz had given the visitors an early lead, Edinburgh went about their task patiently. It took them half-an-hour to get their noses in front thanks to a Sam Skinner try – his first for the team – but within minutes Luke Crosbie got a second. Emiliano Boffelli converted the latter score and would only be on target with three more after the break – a minor flaw in an otherwise impressive evening.
Edinburgh went for the jugular straight from the restart, and got their reward when Pierre Schoeman finished off from two metres out. The bonus-point score came just three minutes later when second-debutant Van der Merwe shrugged off one would-be tackler and sidestepped a second to touch down close to the posts.
The game was in the bag by that stage, but just to make sure, Graham added a fifth minutes later, running in unopposed on the right after an excellent break by Mark Bennett was taken on by Blair Kinghorn and Boffelli.
The Italians had little to offer by way of response, and they soon fell further behind when WP Nel forced his way over from less than a metre out.
Boffelli scored his team’s seventh as they kept up the pressure, and when Van der Merwe got his own second after getting up in support of an Adam McBurney break there was still 10 minutes left.
Thankfully for the Italians, Edinburgh slackened off and Toa Halafihi got a late consolation try. Nonetheless, it was the home team who had the last word as Graham kicked ahead up the right, gathered and touched down.
Scorers, Edinburgh – Tries: Skinner, Crosbie, Schoeman, Van der Merwe 2, Graham 2, Nel, Boffelli. Cons: Boffelli 4.
Benetton: Try: Halafihi. Pen: Albornoz.
Edinburgh: E Boffelli; D Graham, M Bennett, J Lang (C Dean 62), D van der Merwe; B Kinghorn (C Savala 59), H Pyrgos (C Shiel 59); P Schoeman (B Venter 58), D Cherry (A McBurney 58), W Nel (L de Bruin 58), S Skinner (J Hodgson 54), G Gilchrist (captain), N Haining, L Crosbie, V Mata (B Muncaster 54).
Benetton: E Padovani (G Avaca 28); M Bellini, T Menoncello, M Zanon, R Tavuyara (F Drago 68); T Albornoz, M Albanese; T Gallo (F Zani 52), G Lucchesi (M Arroyo 59), N Tetaz (T Pasquali 52), M Lazzaroni (captain, N Piantella 71), C Wegner, A Steyn (A IZekor 48), T Halafihi, H Time-Stowers.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuisen (South Africa).