BENETTON TREVISO prop Romulo Acosta has been banned for six weeks for punching Fraser McKenzie during a fracas which marred Edinburgh Rugby’s 48-0 win over Treviso at BT Murrayfield on Friday evening.
The mass brawl occurred during the second half as substitute Acosta – who was subsequently sent off – began landing punches on Edinburgh player McKenzie near the touchline.
While the offence would usually carry a ten-week ban, Guinness PRO12 chiefs reduced the punishment due to the player’s “exemplary previous playing record”.
A statement read: “Romulo Acosta, the Benetton Treviso replacement prop forward, appeared today before an independent PRO12 Rugby disciplinary committee, following the red card issued to him for striking an opponent, under law 10.4(a), in the Guinness PRO12 match between Edinburgh and Benetton Treviso on Friday, 19 December 2014.
“The disciplinary committee, chaired by Rhian Williams (Wales) along with Simon Thomas and Aurwel Morgan (both Wales), having viewed footage of the incident and listened to representations made by and on behalf of the player, found that the incident was at the top end of the World Rugby/IRB sanctions for this type of offence, meriting a 10 week starting point. In the absence of any aggravating factors and in light of several mitigating factors, including the player’s exemplary previous playing record, the disciplinary committee applied a 4 week reduction from the entry point and suspended the player from playing for 6 weeks.
“After discounting the weeks in which the player is not due to play rugby, Romulo Acosta is free to resume playing from Monday, 16 February 2015 and has the right of appeal.”
Not in the least surprised at the punishment handed to Costa is Edinburgh winger Dougie Fife, who admitted that the violence just seemed to go on ... and on ... and on.”
At the same time, Fife complimented Edinburgh colleagues for quickly regaining focus to punish Treviso.
He said: “Everybody just saw a bit red [and] it was pretty horrible the few punches that guy landed.
“[Edinburgh’s] Grayson Hart didn’t like what he saw and he got involved in a one-on-one.
“When I saw him [Acosta] hit Fraser McKenzie, I thought “surely this isn’t going to carry on?’
“It didn’t seem to stop and that was the biggest problem.
“Sometimes these things can knock you off your stride as a team, but we pulled away and finished off well.”
The result brought Edinburgh’s biggest win in five years – surpassing the 62-13 rout of Connacht in 2009 – and gives them momentum going into arguably the most important weeks of their season as they face back-to-back derby fixtures with keen rivals Glasgow.
These kick off at Scotstoun on Saturday and Fife looked ahead, saying: “That’s three wins from our last three games and hopefully with each one we have been getting better.”
Not only that but Edinburgh have now gone 225 minutes without conceding a try (an intercept which allowed London Welsh to counter-attack).
Fife sees that record as vindication of the systems put in place by defence coach Omar Mouneimne before he returned to South Africa in the late autumn.
“It was amazing to get six tries and a first bonus point since beating Connacht at home last season,” said Fife. “But the boys are even happier at the clean sheet.
“Losing a defence coach is hard but it has almost brought us closer together.
“The boys are putting in extras and defence does win you games. We are seeing big hits and turnovers regularly now.
“Omar is a big loss, but I’m sure he is still looking at how we are doing to see how we are putting into effect what he taught us.”
It wasn’t just the defence that pleased Fife – the goal-kicking was near exemplary, too, with only one miss.
Sam Hidalgo-Clyne slotted five from six and when the substitutions started to roll there was a three-from-three return from Tom Heathcote including conversions from wide out.
“When Sam and Tom step up that obviously lifts us,” said Fife, who added: “We can always look back on things to work on which is good, too, but going 48 points up is always acceptable.
“Also, when you go ahead with a try after 45 seconds, as we did, that put heads up and we never seemed to look back.
“Now comes a big one for Scotland’s coaches and they will look at Saturday’s derby almost like a trial match.
“It is not just this game, other games get you noticed as well, but it is obviously important and I was sorry to miss out due to injury last year after the original fixture was called off due to bad weather.
“Previously, I have only ever come off the bench at Scotstoun but on the occasions I’ve faced Glasgow I’ve found the level to be close to Test standard in intensity,” said the three-times capped Fife.
“We’ve been saying for some time we were due ourselves a big win and while Glasgow will definitely fancy themselves, especially with a vocal and sometimes pretty hostile crowd behind them, don’t underestimate us now.”
Despite such optimism after a clinical job thoroughly well done, Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons has moved quickly to keep feet on the ground, perhaps mindful that Edinburgh haven’t beaten Glasgow since 2011, while it was two years before that that Edinburgh last achieved four successive victories in all competitions.
“We did a reasonable job. I’d give it six or seven out of 10,” said Solomons, who was quick to play the underdog card.
“One must be realistic; Glasgow are much classier than Treviso and we will have to lift our performance to compete.
“We have a long way to go but as long as we make steady progress.
“Sometimes you take a step back but as long as we go inexorably forward that is the main thing.”