EDINBURGH moved off the bottom of the RaboDirect Pro12, at least until today, but there was little polish about this win and more concern for Scotland after wing Tim Visser was stretchered off.
Scorers: Edinburgh: Tries: Tonks, Nel; Pens: Laidlaw 2; Cons: Laidlaw 2.
Treviso: Tries: McLean; Pens: Ambrosini, Botes; Con: Botes.
On a still, mild night perfect for rugby Edinburgh started at a gallop, threatening to blow the Italians off the park, but the loss of winger Visser to an ankle injury after 22 minutes – which makes the winger a doubt for Scotland’s autumn Tests – and lengthy stoppage disrupted the rhythm and left Edinburgh only securing the match-winning try in the final minutes.
Head coach Alan Solomons admitted: “We had more possession that we’ve probably had all season, but the error count was shocking. We probably left half a dozen chances out there on the table.”
David Denton had led the team out, to mark his 50th Edinburgh appearance, and the big No 8 sparked an all-action start where almost the whole Edinburgh team handled the ball in two minutes before we again heard referee Alain Rolland’s whistle. With Nick de Luca and Matt Scott prominent, Edinburgh loaded up their attacks again and again, and after Dougie Fife broke into the Treviso 22, Ross Ford lifted the momentum and Greig Laidlaw almost opened the scoring with a trademark dart to the line.
Rolland and Scottish assistant Peter Allan determined that Laidlaw had knocked on trying to ground the ball squeezed by two Treviso defenders, but back came Edinburgh sweeping through the phases and off-loads across the visitors’ 22 and the try when it came was as clinical as it was inevitable.
They attacked on the left, hit up in the middle and then moved ball swiftly right where flanker Dimitri Basilaia injected superb pace in breaking from the Treviso ten-metre line to the 22, before drawing the full-back Brendan Williams and sending full-back Greig Tonks flying in to the right-hand corner.
Laidlaw slotted the conversion from the right touchline, to put the hosts 7-0 up after 11 minutes. One promising Treviso break was swept up by a fine covering De Luca tackle on scrum-half Fabio Semenzato and, dominating the breakdown and securing good turnovers, the hosts continued to make ground almost at will, with real conviction in their running and slick off-loading.
But the breaks were almost too easy, with players running too far, to retain a shape to the attacks, while other promising attacks foundered on passes that were just too risky.
Then Edinburgh lost Visser, 22 minutes in, the big Scotland winger cut down in a double tackle and left writhing in agony, eventually forced off on a stretcher after a lengthy period of treatment.
Initially, there seemed little change. Jack Cuthbert replaced him and made a swift impact, fielding a high ball, as Treviso tried in vain to escape their half, and dodging three tackles in igniting another Edinburgh attack. This one brought a penalty, but Laidlaw pushed it past the uprights from the right. The pattern of the game continued, but Edinburgh’s intensity in their support play and at the breakdown had dropped off its early intensity. They suffered by conceding a string of penalties, and were fortunate when James Ambrosini, Treviso’s Australia fly-half, missed the target with his first penalty.
But the Italians grew in confidence, with a better supply of ball, Williams began to show his pace and running danger, skipper Antonio Pavanello led the pack forward and when a close-range penalty came their way Ambrosini capitalised with four minutes of the half remaining.
An inch-perfect grubber kick from Laidlaw, that followed the touchline for 40 metres before flopping into touch at the flag, earned the territory for an eventual scrum penalty that let the Edinburgh skipper kick the hosts into a 10-3 half-time lead.
Would that spark a return to the early tempo? A great aerial take by Tonks certainly made a point, flattening Treviso forward Valerie Bernabo in the process, but holding onto ball was a problem for his team-mates. Treviso worked hard to stretch Edinburgh, but there was lots of running without the necessary punch or dynamism in the last third to create a threat.
Laidlaw picked off another penalty but the game entered the final quarter with Treviso picking up, their pack winning more ball and new scrum-half Tobias Botes – an Italy cap – and full-back Williams dancing into the Edinburgh underbelly. And they made it pay. First Luke McLean waltzed in far too easily from 15 metres for a try, converted by Botes, then Edinburgh squandered a good attack inside the Treviso 22, and two penalties later the Italians were level, Botes striking from 40 metres.
Treviso coach Franco Smith was bouncing about in the West Stand, exhorting his side on, and it was the Italians who continued to make the running into the last ten minutes.
Edinburgh responded swiftly, a Laidlaw kick that was superbly chased down by De Luca and Cuthbert, creating a rare platform in the Treviso 22, and this time they finished off with Willem Nel crashing over against the left-hand post. Laidlaw converted, drawing a collective sigh of relief around Murrayfield, and the hosts withstood a late onslaught by Treviso to secure a second league win of the season.
Edinburgh: G Tonks; D Fife, N de Luca, M Scott, T Visser; H Leonard, G Laidlaw (capt); A Dickinson, R Ford, WP Nel, G Gilchrist, S Cox, D Basilaia, C du Preez, D Denton. Subs: J Cuthbert for Visser 22mins, T Leonardi for Basilaia 38, I van der Westhuizen for Cox 69, A Lutui for Denton 78.
Treviso: B Williams; L Nitoglia, L Morisi, A Sgarbi, C Loamanu; J Ambrosini, F Semenzato; M Rizzo, E Ceccato, L Cittadini, A Pavanello (capt), M Fuser, D Budd, A Zanni, M Vosawai. Subs: V Bernabò for Fuser 21mins, L McLean for Morisi 40mins, R Barbieri