THE dark clouds over Edinburgh’s dismal form in the RaboDirect PRO12 darkened some more as they were soundly beaten by a Treviso team that had lost its previous eight games.
Treviso 20 - 16 Edinburgh
SCORERS: Treviso Tries: Ghiraldini, Di Marchi. Cons: Botes 2. Pens: Botes 2. Edinburgh Tries: Du Preez. Cons: Bezuidenhout. Pens: Bezuidenhout 3.
The Italians are second bottom of the league and hadn’t scored a try for more than a month but still managed to twice punch huge holes in a disappointingly passive visiting defence to create two in the space of three second half minutes.
The tries that turned the game went to international hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini and his front row mate Alberto Di Marchi and Edinburgh were left reeling as the Treviso pack took command for the final 15 minutes to close the game out with ease.
Although blindside flanker Cornell Du Preez rescued the losing bonus point with a try in injury time, the Italians were already celebrating in Stadio Monigo. The result means Edinburgh haven’t won any of their away games so far and have only one win in their last six. They remained stuck in ninth place in the table with Cardiff only two points behind after their unexpected win over Ulster.
The odds are lengthening that Edinburgh will now be able to achieve a top six finish that would guarantee a place in European competition next season.
There are still six matches left for Edinburgh to prove the doubters wrong but the excuses are getting ever more forlorn. Instead of improving with the return of three experienced internationalists in Matt Scott, David Denton, and Alasdair Dickinson, the team seems to be getting steadily worse. Inevitably, the decision to rest club captain Greig Laidlaw will be called into question.
Edinburgh’s performance on the night was indifferent and inconsistent. It lacked energy and urgency. Kicking from hand was pretty aimless. When the players did go through several phases to creep up the pitch, the moves were always predictable and often ponderous. When things began to fall apart and Treviso took the lead, there was little leadership or reaction displayed.
The first half was mostly a drab affair, marked by an opening penalty for Treviso by scrum-half Tobias Botes and then a treble for Edinburgh full-back Carl Bezuidenhout, although he did badly hook another attempt from in front of the posts.
Otherwise, the only piece of play to enliven came from Denton charging up the left wing, but his pass went astray as the tackle came in a few metres from the line. A few minutes later Du Preez had the ball in his hands on the right and an overlap outside him, but he lost it in contact and the chance went begging, yet Edinburgh went into the dressing rooms 9-3 to the good.
After the break, both teams perked up a bit. Botes landed his second penalty and Edinburgh stand-off Harry Leonard made a clean break but chose to kick rather than keep the ball in hand as Matt Scott came racing up in support, and it came to nothing.
Treviso gradually began to dominate and Edinburgh had to soak up relentless pressure as the home forwards went through the gears. Edinburgh skipper Andries Strauss stripped the ball to prevent a touch-down as an Italian maul rolled over the line but the warning signs were flashing.
When Ghiraldini shrugged off a tackle by replacement scrum-half Sean Kennedy 20 metres out, he was able to run into space and round the retreating defence for the first try.
Minutes later it was prop Di Marchi who was closed down quickly as he charged for the line but was still able to muscle his way over. Botes converted both tries and the score swung from three points in favour of Edinburgh to 11 points against.
The Italian pack was in total control by this stage, the backs enjoying themselves. They passed up the opportunity for a third penalty and kicked for the corner instead but made a mess of the lineout that allowed Edinburgh to break out as the clock ran down. Du Preez got the ball inside his own half and just kept running at defenders who parted in front of him to concede the try and give Edinburgh what could yet be a crucial losing bonus point to add to the two others they’d already gained on the road this season.
Treviso: L McLean; L Nitoglia, M Campagnaro, A Sgarbi, A Esposito; J Ambrosini, T Botes; A Di Marchi, L Ghiraldini, L Cittadni, A Pavanello, C Van Zyl, M Vosawai, R Barbieri, M Filipucci. Subs: M Muccignat (for Di Marchi 67), M Fuser (for Ghiraldini 70), V Bernabo (for Van Zyl 70), C Loamanu (for Filipucci 70), F Sernenzalo (for Botes 75), A Di Bernardo (for Esposito 72).
Edinburgh: C Bezuidenhoit; J Cuthbert, M Scott, A Strauss, T 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: J Hilterbrand (for Ford 70), W Blaauw (for Dickinson 60), E McQuillin (for Nel 70), O Atkins (for van der Westhuizen 62), T Leonardi for Du Preez 68), S Kennedy (for Hart 50), S Beard (for Scott 59), S Hidalgo-Clyne (for Leonard 71).