Mark Bennett's renaissance at Edinburgh is one of stories of season - and Scotland can benefit

The Mark Bennett renaissance is turning into one of the stories of the season.

Mark Bennett goes over in the corner to score Edinburgh's third try against Cardiff. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Both his tries in Saturday’s 34-10 victory over Cardiff were out of the top drawer as Edinburgh dismantled their visitors with a scintillating display of back play which yielded four first-half tries and another after the break.

The win catapulted Mike Blair’s side to the top of the United Rugby Championship, four points clear of second-placed Leinster, who did not play at the weekend.

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Asked if the first half was the best 40 minutes the team had put together this season, Bennett did not disagree.

“We would be hard pushed to say otherwise,” said the Cumnock man. “We were sharp, we were clinical and we even missed a few opportunities as well.

“As a back line that was bloody exciting. We are getting our roles right and when we execute them we are scoring. What more do you want?”

Bennett was at the centre of it all, running a decoy as Ben Vellacott set up Ramiro Moyano for the first try, then bursting clear from his own half and playing in Emiliano Boffelli for the second.

The brace from the Argentine wingers had Edinburgh 12-0 up inside eight minutes and they drove home their dominance with another couple before the break.

Mark Bennett sealed Edinburgh's win over Cardiff with a fine solo try. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

Bennett got his first of the afternoon, exchanging passes with Boffelli and then squeezing over in the corner. James Lang added the bonus point score after a long, looping pass from the excellent Blair Kinghorn found Jamie Ritchie loitering on the left wing.

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It was great to watch and Bennett applied the coup de grace, scoring Edinburgh’s fifth try late in the second half with a slaloming run from close to halfway. While the backs grabbed the glory, Bennett was quick to praise the big men who won them the ball, and also stand-off Kinghorn.

“Our forward pack was outstanding,” said the centre. “They were so blooming physical. Teams have to respect that and we have players out wide who can do damage.

Mark Bennett (right) celebrates his second try with Chris Dean. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

“And Blair is an essential cog in that. His distribution is brilliant and he chucked a couple of cracking ones to get us into that space. When it goes right we are going to be hard to defend against.”

Bennett is revelling in Edinburgh’s new found desire to attack, playing with a freedom seldom seen last season.

“We are getting the ball into space and playing a good brand of rugby,” added Bennett. “It is a great group of guys to be involved in. I am loving it here.”

The outside centre has been outstanding all season and was part of the original Scotland squad for the Autumn Nations Series. A knee injury meant he played no part but his form suggests he could have a big role to play in the Six Nations.

Bennett won the last of his 22 caps in 2018, slipping off the international radar in recent years due to a combination of injuries and Edinburgh’s conservatism under Blair’s predecessor, Richard Cockerill.

The shackles are off now for the former Glasgow man who is in the sort of form which made such a stand-out performer for Scotland at the 2015 World Cup. Still only 28, Bennett has plenty time left to excel for club and country.

Scorers: Edinburgh: Tries: Moyano, Boffelli, Bennett 2, Lang. Cons: Boffelli 2, van der Walt. Pen: Boffelli.

Cardiff: Try: Lane. Con: Evans. Pen: Priestland.

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