TWO tries in three minutes, both of them scored by front row forwards, gave Treviso a victory they just about deserved over Edinburgh last night.
This defeat could be a hammer blow for Edinburgh in the new European Cup set-up, as only the top six in the Pro12 seem sure to qualify.
Losing to Treviso means Edinburgh stay firmly in the bottom six, and they are running out of fixtures to move up.
The Scottish side could and possibly should have won this match, given the chances they had to score in a first half they largely dominated, but, on several occasions, they squandered clear chances for tries and did not cross the home line in the Stadio Monigo until the clock had turned red at the end of the match.
Edinburgh had the outstanding No.8 Dave Denton, prop Alasdair Dickinson and centre Matt Scott back after international duty, while several other positional and personnel changes gave the team an unfamiliar look. There was plenty familiar about Edinburgh’s good start, however and, with Ross Ford, Roddy Grant, and especially Denton to the fore, they camped in the Treviso half before twice losing possession in promising positions.
Treviso came into the game and, after Edinburgh failed to bind properly at a scrum, Tobias Botes put the home side ahead from 40 metres after 12 minutes.
The momentum was with the Italians at that point but Edinburgh’s defence held firm and soon the Scots were back in attack, drawing Treviso offside to allow Carl Bezuidenhout to level the scores with a straightforward penalty after 25 minutes.
The South African full-back missed a long attempt shortly afterwards but made no mistake when Edinburgh’s pressure earned a penalty after 31 minutes.
Bezuidenhout then made a classic break from deep that almost resulted in a try, Treviso getting back in numbers just in time.
Breaks by Denton and Grant put pressure on Treviso but the Italians were clever in the way they kicked for territory and spoiled Edinburgh’s possession.
With Edinburgh playing fast and direct rugby, on 37 minutes Ford and Denton breenged forward and, with referee Nigel Owens signalling a penalty, Cornell Du Preez inexplicably ignored an overlap and ran into defenders. What should have been seven points became three as Bezuidenhout goaled the penalty.
Treviso started the second half with their tails up, and a succession of phases saw them inside the Edinburgh 22-metre area, where the pressure told and Grant Gilchrist handled in the ruck to give Botes an easy three-pointer.
There was a moment of controversy when Jack Cuthbert got underneath a flying Botes, who crashed heavily to the ground. The Italian fans bayed for at least a yellow card but the replays showed Cuthbert did not hit Botes intentionally. Referee Owens gave a penalty, however and, after moving the ball upfield, the Treviso pack mauled over the line, only for Andries Strauss to rip the ball clear and prevent the score.
Sean Kennedy replaced Grayson Hart at scrum-half, as Edinburgh’s defence was being sorely tested.
As in the first half, unforced errors by Treviso assisted the Scots’ doughty efforts, while the Italians seemed injury prone which disrupted the flow of play, Edinburgh never quite being able to capitalise on their superior pace.
Slowing things down worked for the Italians, though, as their forwards upped their workrate considerably.
Just after the hour mark, Leonardo Ghiraldini found himself one-on-one with replacement scrum-half Kennedy and it was no contest, the hooker barging Kennedy out of the way and romping away to score the first try of the match, which Botes converted.
It was followed less than three minutes later by another front row forward’s try, prop Alberto De Marchi crashing home from close range after a powerful thrust to the line by Corneil van Zyl, Botes again converting to give the Italians a 20-9 lead.
Edinburgh kept trying to attack and, in stoppage time, Du Preez made up for his first-half faux pas by sprinting home from halfway for a converted try which at least earned his side a bonus point.
Much more than just bonus points will be needed, however, if Edinburgh are to stay in Europe’s elite competition.
Scorers: Benetton Treviso: Tries: Ghiraldini, De Marchi. Cons: Botes, 2. Pens: Botes, 2. Edinburgh: Try: Du Preez. Cons: Bezuidenhout. Pens: Bezuidenhout 3.
Benetton Treviso: L McLean; L Nitoglia, M Campagnaro, A Sgarbi, A Esposito; J Ambrosini, T Botes; A De Marchi, L Ghiraldini, L Cittadini, R Barbieri, M Filippucci, M Vosawai, C Van Zyl, A Pavanello (capt). Subs from: G Maistri, M Muccignat, I Fernandez-Rouyet, M Fuser, V Bernabo, C Loamanu, F Semenzato, A Di Bernardo
Edinburgh: C Bezuidenhout; J Cuthbert, M Scott, A Strauss (capt), Tom Brown; H Leonard, G Hart; A Dickinson, R Ford, W Nel, G Gilchrist, I van der Westhuizen, C Du Preez, R Grant, D Denton. Subs from: J Hilterbrand, W Blaauw, E McQuillin, O Atkins, T Leonardi, S Kennedy, S Beard, S Hidalgo-Clyne.
Referee: N Owens (WRFU).