Edinburgh’s winning start to the Guinness Pro14 season under new coach Richard Cockerill came to a shuddering halt with a shock 20-17 loss to Benetton Treviso at Myreside last night.
Two early tries from Chris Dean seemed to have Edinburgh on their way but the frailties of the past few seasons resurfaced and the Italians fought back from 14-0 down to take the points.
With testing trips to champions Scarlets and Irish big guns Leinster next up, Cockerill knows he has a job on his hands in lifting his men and avoiding sliding into another losing slump.
The coach said: “If you are inaccurate, don’t look after the ball and don’t give the opposition the respect you should then you get unstuck and that’s exactly what happened tonight. We were too sloppy across the board.
“At the end we were going for the win. You can talk about the refereeing decisions but I’m not that fussed. We shouldn’t be in that position. We should be better than that. I’m disappointed to say the least.
“This team’s got to learn, there are going to be bumps along the way. It’s a pretty big bump this evening.”
There was a disappointing start to the match for former Scotland Under-20 international and senior Italy cap Tommaso Allan, who was stretchered off in the opening minutes before Duncan Weir missed the first scoring opportunity with a wayward penalty attempt.
The stand-off more than made amends for that moments later, however, as his last-ditch tackle in the corner prevented Tommaso Benvenuti scoring after he had pounced to intercept a loose pass from centre Dean.
The home No.13 soon wiped his ledger clean too as he hit a perfect line to take midfield partner Robbie Fruean’s perfect pop pass to scorch in down the right for the opening try, Weir converting well from wide. Dean doubled his tally with a far simpler effort after the Edinburgh forwards had pummelled the Italians deep in their own 22 and the 23-year-old was the first of several queueing up for the overlap and dived over after Weir, who converted again, put in the scoring pass.
In the 29th minute, Benetton hit back as wing Angelo Esposito barged over and Ian McKinley converted to halve the deficit. The visitors then claimed the last points of the half as McKinley stroked over a penalty to leave Edinburgh disappointed to only be leading by four points at the break.
Things went from bad to worse early in the second half when home captain Magnus Bradbury was sin-binned for slapping the ball out of scrum-half Edoardo Gori’s hands and McKinley stroked over the resultant penalty to make it just 14-13.
Blair Kinghorn, who had been in splendid form in the first two games, then had a rush of blood and threw a forward pass in his own 22. The Italians won the scrum and worked an overlap on the right and Esposito dotted down. McKinley’s conversion meant, incredibly, the Italians were now 20-14 up. A Weir penalty immediately pegged the home side back to within three points but Edinburgh struggled to make any inroads on their dogged opponents.
A similar second-half slump the previous Friday had seen the Dragons claw their way back into it before a late home surge but this was a far more troubling scenario and time was ticking away.
Desperate Edinburgh pressing in the last five minutes saw them awarded penalties but opting for scrums to go for the win. Constant Italian infringing saw another couple pinged to the bin but Irish ref David Wilkinson was not for giving a penalty try.
Edinburgh then strangely went for the lineout route rather than another scrum and a knock-on brought a dreadfully disappointing end to the proceedings.
Edinburgh Rugby: Tries: Dean 2. Cons: Weir 2. Pens: Weir.
Benetton: Tries: Esposito 2. Cons: McKinley 2. Pens: McKinley 2.
Edinburgh: Kinghorn, Hoyland, Dean, Fruean, Harries, Weir, Fowles, Rizzo, Ford, Berghan, Bresler, B. Toolis, Bradbury, Hardie, Du Preez. Replacements: Rasolea for Fruean (65), Hidalgo-Clyne for Fowles (61), Marfo for Rizzo (61), Nel for Berghan (58), McKenzie for Bresler (58), Watson for Hardie (61). Not Used: Cochrane, Tovey. Sin Bin: Bradbury (47).
Benetton: Hayward, Esposito, Sgarbi, Allan, Benvenuti, McKinley, Gori, de Marchi, Makelara, Pasquali, Lazzaroni, Ruzza, Minto, Steyn, Budd. Replacements: Traore for de Marchi (41), Zani for Makelara (61), Ferrari for Pasquali (41), Zanon for Lazzaroni (70), Barbini for Minto (69). Not Used: Fuser, G. Bronzini, Sperandio. Sin Bin: Makelara (34), Traore (74), de Marchi (79).
Ref: David Wilkinson (Ireland).