|Edinburgh (14) 17|
|Tries: Dean 2. Cons: Weir 2. Pens: Weir|
|Dragons (10) 20|
|Tries: Esposito 2. Cons: McKinley 2. Pens: McKinley 2|
Edinburgh slumped to their first defeat of the Pro14 campaign as they were beaten at home by Benetton.
The Scots struggled to impose themselves on lacklustre opponents who moved ahead early in the second half.
The Italians then held on for their first win as the hosts squandered numerous late scoring opportunities.
A brace of tries from Chris Dean had put Edinburgh ahead, but Benetton responded through Angelo Esposito touchdowns either side of the break.
Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill said afterwards that this extraordinary loss marked the end of the honeymoon period for his players.
He kept a lid on the fury, but you had to wonder how long that lasted. His players were hopelessly weak, a mirror image of what they’ve produced over the last few years.
They were comfortable in the game in the beginning. When they scored two quick tries through Dean, the game appeared to be up for Benetton, who have lost their last 41 games outside of Italy.
Their scrum was shunted backwards and their lineout was in bother, too. Nobody inside Myreside anticipated anything other than a handsome, bonus-point victory for Cockerill’s side.
Dean’s first score was a simple affair, the centre coming on to a Robbie Fruean pass and skating over. His second came after sustained pressure, the Edinburgh forwards punching holes and spreading the Benetton defence wide open. Weir gave the long pass for Dean to touch down again.
The fly-half landed both conversions and Edinburgh led 14-0. Easy. And then – not so easy.
In fact, it became a nightmarish night. Benetton scored just short of the half-hour mark, a try that said something about their forward power but even more about the passivity of Edinburgh’s defence.
The visitors lost their hooker, Engjel Makelara, to the bin soon after, but by then even a one-man advantage did nothing for a flat, error-ridden Edinburgh. They lost the 10-minute spell to an Ian McKinley penalty.
Edinburgh’s challenge emptied with a frightening speed. Seven minutes into the new half, Magnus Bradbury got a yellow card of his own.
Bradbury, the captain, wasn’t exactly having a big game at the time. The Edinburgh coach is desperately short on leaders. In the crisis, nobody stood forward.
Reduced in numbers, Edinburgh continued to sink. The Benetton back-row, through the excellent Dean Budd, took play deep into the Edinburgh 22.
Once more, Italian power was too much for Scottish resistance, such as it was. When Benetton moved it out of the breakdown, they went right and Esposito ran round for his second try of the night. McKinley put over a lovely conversion.
That was 20 unanswered points for Benetton. Weir’s boot narrowed the gap to 20-17, but, even still, Benetton won the Bradbury sin-binning 10-3.
Edinburgh dominated from there on, but there was so little about them that was impressive. They had possession and territory but precious little wit and control. In going after the win, they were a plodding, predictable and disjointed.
Benetton had to defend their line in those closing minutes. They lost another man to the bin, the prop, Cherif Traore, and then another, Alberto De Marchi.
Edinburgh would have preferred he stayed on the pitch because, when he exited, the scrums went uncontested. That wasn’t in Edinburgh’s interests.
Scrum followed scrum and penalty followed penalty. There were obvious claims for a penalty try at that point, but referee David Wilkinson refused.
Cockerill didn’t make a big deal of Wilkinson’s curious takes on things at the end, pointing out instead that Edinburgh should never have put themselves into that position in the first place.
He was right, but so much of what Edinburgh produced was ruinously wrong. This was all too familiar and all too grim.
Cockerill, if he didn’t know it already, has a mountainous challenge on his hands.
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).
Referee: David Wilkinson (IRFU)
Assistant referees: Lloyd Linton (SRU), Dunx McClement (SRU)
Citing commissioner: John Kirk (SRU)