Benetton stun Edinburgh in late thriller
MATCH REPORT: Substitute Leonardo Marin stunned Edinburgh with an 85th-minute drop goal as Benetton won a United Rugby Championship thriller 28-27 in Treviso.
Edinburgh looked to have done enough after Ben Vellacott scored two tries that saw the visitors lead until 19-year-old Marin struck with the game’s final kick at Stadio Monigo.
Mike Blair’s men collected two points from the contest, but he will be frustrated that Edinburgh could not close things out following Jaco van der Walt’s 75th-minute penalty.
Prop WP Nel and hooker Stuart McInally also touched down for Edinburgh, with Van der Walt kicking two conversions.
Benetton, beaten just once in their last seven games before Edinburgh’s visit to northern Italy, crossed for two tries by hooker Gianmarco Lucchesi and one from wing Monty Ioane, while Tomas Albornoz booted a penalty and conversion, and Marin added a penalty, conversion and his clinching drop goal.
Benetton blasted out of the blocks, taking a fourth-minute lead when smart approach play saw Lucchesi burst through a huge gap and touch down unopposed.
It was an immediate setback for Edinburgh, but they regrouped impressively as their forwards laid siege to Benetton’s line and Nel crashed over for an equalising touchdown that Van der Walt converted.
Edinburgh built on Nel’s score after Albornoz kicked a penalty when Vellacott showcased his pace and elusiveness by darting over for a smart score.
Van der Walt added the conversion, then Vellacott unlocked Benetton’s defence again just four minutes later, claiming a quickfire second touchdown as Edinburgh opened up an 11-point lead.
Benetton, though, refused to go quietly, and they cut the deficit through a clever score six minutes before half-time.
Albornoz was the architect, electing to kick rather than pass inside Edinburgh’s 22, and his pinpoint accuracy meant Ioane caught the ball without breaking stride as he crossed wide out.
Albornoz converted, making it 19-15 at the break as the quality of rugby matched glorious conditions.
Edinburgh soon breached Benetton’s defence for a fourth occasion after a relentless driving maul ended with McInally touching down early in the second period.
Benetton’s substitute hooker Gianmarco Nicotera was sin-binned for obstruction on Edinburgh wing Darcy Graham early in the final quarter, yet the one-man disadvantage made little difference as Lucchesi collected his second try after a Marin penalty, with the teenager converting and then delivering his dramatic drop goal.
Player of the match
Marin may have made the decisive impact on the match in the closing stages, showing wonderful composure to shade a thrilling contest Benetton’s way, but it was Edinburgh scrum-half Vellacott who landed the individual honours in Treviso.
Vellacott scored two first-half tries and proved a key performer for the visitors – a mightily impressive performance from the 26-year-old.
Play of the match
It was a game high on entertainment value, with seven tries being shared by the teams, but Benetton showed superb precision with their second try just before half-time.
It was something they would have tried many times in training, but it was executed brilliantly during a match situation as fly-half Albornoz delivered a pinpoint cross-kick straight into the arms of wing Ioane, who touched down and kept Benetton in the hunt.
Tries: Lucchesi 2, Ioane
Cons: Albornoz, Marin
Pens: Albornoz, Marin
Tries: Nel, Vellacott 2, McInally
Cons: Van der Walt 2
Pen: Van der Walt
Benetton: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ratuva Tavuyara, 13 Tommaso Menoncello, 12 Joaquin Riera, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Tomas Albornoz, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage (captain), 8 Riccardo Favretto, 7 Michele Lamaro, 6 Giovanni Pettinelli, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 1 Nahuel Chaparro.
Replacements: 16 Giacomo Nicotera, 17 Federico Zani, 18 Ivan Nemer, 19 Niccolò Cannone, 20 Lorenzo Cannone, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Leonardo Marin, 23 Tommaso Benvenuti.
Edinburgh: 15 Henry Immelman, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 James Lang, 11 Jack Blain, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Ben Vellacott, 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Connor Boyle, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Grant Gilchrist (captain), 4 Jamie Hodgson, 3 WP Nel, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Boan Venter.
Replacements: 16 Dave Cherry, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Lee-Roy Atalifo, 19 Pierce Phillips, 20 Luke Crosbie, 21 Charlie Shiel, 22 Chris Dean, 23 Ramiro Moyano.
Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)
Assistant referees: Manuel Bottino (Italy), Filippo Russo (Italy)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)