Edinburgh under pressure ahead of Heineken Cup opener, says Michael Bradley

WP Nel receives a yellow card in Edinburgh's loss to treviso. Pic: SNS
WP Nel receives a yellow card in Edinburgh's loss to treviso. Pic: SNS
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EDINBURGH Rugby coach Michael Bradley has conceded that his players are now under even greater pressure ahead of next week’s Heineken Cup opener after going down 27-22 defeat against Benetton Treviso at Murrayfield last night in a RaboDirect PRO12 encounter match where novice referee Matteo Liperini was the dominant figure.

The Italian official’s interpretation of the set piece meant that the task of counting the number of completed scrums did not even require all of the digits on one hand.

Commenting on the latest setback, Bradley said: “We are shattered and disappointed with the result. The circumstances were difficult in terms of the officiating of the game. Having said that, we were in charge of our own destiny and we have to be able to manage situations like that.”

And he accepted that the blame for the fourth defeat in six league starts lay squarely with his own players, adding: “We have to get ourselves in order. If we had approached the opportunities we had in the second half with more composure, we could have won the game.”

Edinburgh started well and Greig Laidlaw slotted an early penalty to edge the hosts in front. However, the home side sat back and allowed the visitors to dictate the pace and tone of the game. A neat chip by Tommasso Iannone yielded a lineout five metres from the home line and it took a mighty effort by Allan Jacobsen to win turnover ball just shy of the whitewash to prevent the visitors from breaking through.

The home front row fell foul repeatedly of the referee, who deemed that the hosts had offended at the first four scrums. That tally continued to mount and when Willem Nel was then adjudged culpable three times in quick succession, the South African found himself spending ten minutes in the sin bin.

The visitors used their numerical advantage to full effect and the opening try came at a close-range scrum when the referee awarded a penalty try, which Di Bernardo converted. While the manner of the score may have been controversial, the fact that it was a fair reward for Treviso’s domination was beyond debate.

Having spent half an hour on the back foot, and with Nel preparing to return to the fray, the hosts unleashed Tim Visser for the first time. Dave Denton picked up just outside the home 22 and drew two players before releasing the winger whose change of pace took him past three defenders for his eighth try of the season. Laidlaw converted and Edinburgh were once again three points to the good.

However, Di Bernardo restored parity with a penalty then stroked over a conversion with the final action of the half after Robert Barbieri had pounced on a fumble and galloped over.

Di Bernardo added another penalty as the visitors restarted well, and the task facing the hosts took on even greater proportions in 55 minutes when Barbieri charged down an attempted clearance by Richie Rees and plunged on the loose ball for a try which Di Bernardo converted.

Edinburgh’s riposte was instant and again exposed the frailty of the Treviso defence in the face of high paced attacking. This time it was Lee Jones who did the damage with an arcing run that took him past his opposite number. Laidlaw’s conversion attempt rattled back off the post.

The difficulties at the scrum continued but, bizarrely, the referee decided that Treviso had now become serial offenders and, after three in a row, he despatched Alberto De Marche for ten minutes in the cooler.

Edinburgh failed to score during his absence but seized a lifeline two minutes from full time when a well-worked move sent Dougie Fife darting over and Laidlaw converted to cut the deficit to five points. And the hosts almost snatched an unlikely win when, with the last play of the game, Visser made ground and chipped ahead, only to be pipped in the race for the line, leaving the hosts to settle for a narrow defeat bonus point. That was little consolation for a furious Bradley who said: “We have a very big game next week and it has just become even more important for us because of that result.”

Edinburgh: Tries – Visser, Jones, Fife. Cons – Laidlaw (2). Pen – Laidlaw

Treviso: Tries – Penalty, Barbieri (2). Cons – Di Bernardo (3). Pens – Di Bernardo (2)

Edinburgh Rugby: G Tonks (D Fife 40), L Jones, M Scott, B Atiga, T Visser, G Laidlaw, C Leck (R Rees 50), A Jacobsen (J Yapp 50), R Ford (A Titterell 72), W Nel, G Gilchrist, S Cox, D Denton (R Rennie 58), R Grant (N Talei 58), D Basilaia

Benetton Treviso: L McLean, T Iannone, T Benvenuti, A Sgarbi, T Botes, A Di Bernardo, F Semenzato, M Rizzo (A De Marchi 45), L Ghiraldini, L Cittadini (P Di Santo 74), A Pavanello, F Minto, S Favaro (M Filippucci 74), A Zanni, R Barbieri

Referee: M Liperini (Italy)