Edinburgh hooker Mike Willemse has said the squad will not seek excuses for their 18-16 loss at Benetton on Saturday night and that learning how to win in such situations has to be the next step in their development.
The Pro14 match in Treviso was a gruelling, forward-dominated battle played in heavy rain, and at times the quality of rugby on offer was as poor as the conditions. Stand-off Jaco van der Walt missed two late penalties, meaning the visitors emerged with only a losing bonus point, but Willemse pointed out that Benetton’s far brighter start had also had a significant influence on the outcome.
“It really went down to the wire,” the South African said on the Edinburgh website. “Whoever got the right calls was going to win it, and on a better day it might have been different. But full credit to Benetton: they really came out flying and in the end deserved their win.
“You can’t really blame the weather. You play in different countries, different terrain and weather, all the time, so you’ve got to be up for those different situations. It might have played a part, but at the end of the day you’ve got to produce the goods regardless of the weather and the conditions.”
Not only were the conditions very similar to those which often prevail at Murrayfield, they also played to Edinburgh’s traditional strengths up front. But although Richard Cockerill’s team had the better of much of the close-quarters grappling, with Magnus Bradbury being particularly impressive, Benetton defended magnificently at times – especially at the end of the first half when they held out on their own line for five minutes before eventually conceding a penalty.
Van der Walt scored with that one to make the score at the break 15-13, and given Jamie Bhatti was in the sinbin at the time for a tackle off the ball, for Edinburgh to claim any kind of score at that point was an encouraging sign. After the break, however, the game become more bogged down and deteriorated in quality.
The Edinburgh No 10 put his team ahead with another penalty four minutes into the second half, but Tomasso Allan claimed what turned out to be the final score with a penalty just before the hour mark. The two subsequent misses by Van der Walt, quarter of an hour then just a few minutes before the end, were by no means simple chances, but a player of his quality would usually get at least one on target.
Earlier, that bright start had seen the home team take the lead through a converted try from Jayden Hayward. Van der Walt and Allan exchanged penalties, then, in the best move of the game, Luke Crosbie finished off a superb counter-attack. The conversion made it 10-10, but just after Bhatti saw yellow, Tomas Baravalle restored Benetton’s lead with their second try before that Van der Walt penalty right on half-time.