This was an odd, see-saw of a game. The visitors dominated the opening half, with Nasi Manu and Cornell du Preez to the forefront. Those three tries came from stand-off Phil Burleigh, centre Sam Beard and the best of the lot fell to Damien Hoyland, who finished off a sweeping move in some style.
He is in good form. After his brace of tries in the opening round, Hoyland is currently averaging 1.5 tries per match. The recently-capped winger also made a crucial tackle to prevent a score and another time he ripped the ball clean out of the grasp of Treviso’s burly prop forward Andrea de Marchi.
After racing into a 24-6 lead, Treviso’s points coming from the boot of full-back Jayden Hayward, Edinburgh took their foot off the gas and allowed the Italian team to elbow their way back into this match with a sparkling show of running rugby. The initial fightback was sparked by the Kiwi full-back, who broke from deep before linking with the dangerous scrum-half Chris Smylie, who eventually sent Andrea Pratichetti over the line.
Edinburgh hooker Neil Cochrane was yellow carded on the stroke of half-time and, when the match resumed, Treviso drove a lineout to within inches of the Edinburgh line before lock Duncan Naude muscled over. From bossing proceedings Edinburgh found themselves under the cosh, which is pretty much where they stayed for the remainder of this match thanks to a resurgent Treviso and mistakes by the Scots.
“We did at least manage to grind out a win which I think will have huge value to us later in the season,” said head coach Alan Solomons, who preferred to focus on the positives. “We have had a hard few weeks with four tough games, two in the pre-season and two in the league, all of which we have won.
“In the first half, we played some really good stuff and showed what we could do but then we started to flag, which may have been down to the heat and we were delayed in our journey to Milan so we didn’t arrive until 9.15pm [on Friday evening].
“Fatigue certainly played a role in some of the tackles that we missed but credit to the opposition who played well and the yellow card at the end did not help matters. But we managed to scrum with just seven forwards. We won a penalty and kicked to touch, then we won the lineout and kicked the ball out to win the match.”
Treviso drew level on 57 minutes after Hayward’s fourth penalty, only for Edinburgh to go back in front after a rare sortie into opposition territory thanks to Tonk’s boot with less than eight minutes left on the clock. The drama was only just beginning. The home team regained the ball and marched it into the Edinburgh red zone where they set up camp.
Awarded a penalty in the shadow of the visitors’ posts, Treviso opted for a set scrum rather than taking the three points to tie the game. The first two scrums resulted in a penalty to Treviso as Edinburgh collapsed, so tighthead John Andress was replaced by Simon Berghan, who was carded in the next scrum, necessitating Andress to make his weary way back into the action.
It looked like the kiss of death for Edinburgh but, at the fourth engagement with a penalty try all but inevitable, the referee instead penalised the Treviso scrum for what looked like a binding infringement. “Fundamentally, there was a huge shift in momentum midway through the match and we have to be able to manage those shifts when they arrive,” added Solomons.
Treviso: Hayward; Nitoglia, Iannione, Pratichetti, Ragusi; Christie, Smylie; Di Marchi, Santamaria, Harden, Naude (Gerosa 53), Palmer (Montauriol 72), Barbini (Steyn 63), Budd, Barbieri.
Edinburgh: Tonks; Fife, Dean, Beard, Hoyland (Cuthbert 56); Burleigh (Johnson 65), Kennedy (Fowles 56); Sutherland, Cochrane (Turner 75), Andress, McKenzie (A Toolis 63), B Toolis, Du Preez, Grant (Watson 50), Manu.