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Edinburgh Rugby: 22 (10) Benetton Treviso: 27 (17)

'Referee: Matteo Liperini (FIR, 1st competition game)' - extract from RaboDirect Pro12 website.  Boy, did it show.


There were times tonight at Murrayfield when anguished observers felt that the diminutive Italian's whistler's performance was so abject that he must surely have been Irish as cries of 'go home to Ireland' frequently rang out.  So obscure is he that there is no sign of a profile on the Rabo website's gallery of faintly shifty looking characters who make up the Rabo refereeing pool.  Given that the fourth and fifth officials on the sidelines appeared pretty embarrassed by the disaster unfolding on the pitch before them, perhaps this will turn out to be Sr Liperini's first and mercifully last outing in the Rabo.  I, for one, am in no hurry to see this guy again.

All jesting apart, the officiating tonight was lamentable and though it was probably the worst I have ever seen in the Rabo - which is high praise indeed as there is plenty of competition - it does highlight a real danger for the league.  It is good that each Rabo Union can use the tournament to expose their referees to provincial rugby with a view to developing future international whistlers.  But these individuals must reach a certain basic level of competence before they are unleashed on an unsuspecting world - and 4,000 odd members of the public who had paid good money to watch a game of rugby in perfect conditions.  The credibility of the competition is at stake.  Tonight's referee never looked comfortable and seemed to be on an entirely different wavelength from both teams.  Pretty much every scrummage in the first period and most in the second did not end with ball making it into the scrum half's hands.  Instead, there was a bewildering flurry of free kicks and penalties, a number of which went patently the wrong way.  He dished out two yellows and the penalty count was 11 Edinburgh 16 Treviso (or thereabouts). He needed to get a grip of proceedings and tell the players what he expected.  Instead, the match was a mess and it was Benetton Treviso who navigated their way through it the better.

Indeed, the Italian visitors deserved to win, Man of the Match Robert Barbieri's brace of tries either side of the break seeing them home.  No-one really took control of the match, but visiting 10 Alberto Di Bernardo, a tidy player, came closest to doing so.  Both sides scored three tries, two of Treviso's coming directly from Embra howlers, the other a penalty try.  The Gunners' efforts were somewhat easier on the eye, with You Know Who, Dougie Fife and a sharp-looking Lee Jones crossing.

There were some flashes of brilliance from the Embra men.  And they could have nicked it deep into injury time as Visser chased his own kick in goal from distance.  But that would have been hard on the visitors, who built the foundations of their victory with vastly superior field position, particularly in the first half, and an edge in the forward battle.  If their handling had been better, they might even have put the match out of sight by the half.  That said, they rarely really threatened and had Edinburgh played with more discipline and control the story would have been different.

But they didn't.  Once again, their indiscipline cost them.  They completely failed to read the referee, difficult though that admittedly was, and at times seemed to lose their composure, notably after Barnbieri's second try on the hour. They desperately needed to put in the phases in and around the enemy red zone, but instead of building pressure, too often they tried to run the ball out of their own 22 and got nowhere.  There were far too many wild passes, even from the saintly Matt Scott.  Ben Atiga was a calm influence at second five eighth, but the Gunners simply failed to earn the right to go wide.  Just about the only bright spot in a dire performance was the return to a bit of form of Lee Jones, who took his try very well and looked eager on the rare occasions he got the ball.

It all started fairly well, with Laidlaw knocking over his second penalty effort on two minutes as the Gunners exploded into the game.  Treviso steadied the ship and set up camp in the home half for the next half an hour, give or take the odd Embra excursion.

On 20 minutes, Laidlaw rather unwisely ran a penalty inside his own ten metre line.  His pass hit a lazy running Italian who had retreated substantially less than ten yards at the infringement.  The referee did nothing and Treviso eventually won an attacking lineout.  Although the Gunners turned over ball and cleared, the visitors were knocking on the door shortly afterwards.  They won three penalties from attacking scrum ball, on the last of which WP Nel was carded when it appeared that his opposing loosehead had stood up.  Short handed Edinburgh eventually managed to clear again.  But they were back in the trenches once more on 27 minutes.  Treviso got the squeeze on, Edinburgh stood up and I felt the referee was correct to award the penalty try.  The conversion gave Treviso a 7-3 lead.

Edinburgh scored a super try shortly afterwards.  Off a collapsing scrummage, Dave Denton picked up well and headed towards the wing through heavy traffic.  The young economist found Visser, who skinned the defence alive, surging over beneath the posts for the try - his eighth of the season already - goaled by Laidlaw.  10-7 a couple of minutes before the half and time to shut up shop before the half-time oranges.

Unfortunately not.  First, Denton gave away a silly penalty at a maul, then an awful Scott pass went to ground, was gathered well by Treviso and Barbieri barrelled over for a 17-10 lead at the end of the first half.  Ten points completely thrown away.  Having said that, much of the lead up play prior to the try took place when a worryingly motionless Allan 'Chunk' Jacobsen lay on the ground receiving attention to a head knock after an accidental clash with Chris Leck as the two of them attempted to gather a kick.  One felt considereable sympathy for the home medical team, who clearly felt that the referee should have stopped play.

And Di Bernardo stretched the lead to ten with a penalty early in the second period.  When Rees, receiving absolutely no protection from his pack, was charged down attempting to clear a defensive lineout for Barbieri's second try, things were looking pretty grim.  27-10 down with only 20 minutes to go.

That seemed to be the cue for Edinburgh to start to focus at last and they scored a peach immediately after the restart.  Off a mini ruck in the centre of the park, the ball was shipped left for Jones to take it on around the enemy 10.  He scooted through defenders and crossed for a fine score, but Laidlaw's conversion attempt hit a post. 

They were back on the offensive immediately afterwards and started a series of attacking scrummages on the Treviso line.  First scrum penalty they kicked to the corner.  Then another attacking scrum.  The visitors lost one prop to the bin when they were penalised, Edinburgh took the scrummage again.  Another penalty; another scrum.  A fourth penalty; another scrum. Treviso stand up under pressure - no penalty and the referee adjudges the scrum to have been turned and Treviso get the put in.  Almost ten minutes of pressure with consistent infringements by the defending side, yet the referee did not award a penalty try.  This did not seem consistent with his award the other way in the first period.

The Gunners did eventually make it over, determined Dougie Fife, on for Tonks at full back, did well to work his way through the defence for the converted try that secured at least a losing bonus point.  There was less than a minute left, though.  And although Edinburgh gradually managed to work the kick off to half way, then Visser surged along the wing, the big man was just not able to beat the defence to touch down his own kick ahead into the in-goal area.

This bitterly disappointing performance and result have probably ended the Gunners' Rabo hopes this season even before the first Heineken phase.  Not mathematically, of course, but it is hard to see them making it through the remaining 16 matches losing only three or four. Particularly not on this form.  And they will very rapidly exit contention from the Heineken if they serve up more of this guff at Murrayfield against Saracens next Saturday.  It's going to be a tough group and four wins may be enough to qualify.  But no side losing a home match is going to get to the knock-out stages.  Over to you lads.


INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT GEORGIA (#7): The Caucasus mountains formed over twenty million years when the Arabian tectonic plate collided with the Eurasian plate. They are technically considered to be a continuation of the Himalayas.