LEONARD STEERS EMBRA TO VICTORY IN ITALY
Benetton Treviso: 11 (8) Edinburgh Rugby: 22 (9)
I must not overhype an emerging young player. I must not overhype an emerging young player. I must not overhype an emerging young player.... I'm still a bit scarred by the Rory Hutton Incident of a few years ago.
Nevertheless, teenage tyro playmaker Harry Leonard's 17 points with the boot, his sound game management, together with a try that appears to have been awarded to the relative old timer Ross 'Rosco' Rennie, were enough to give visiting Edinburgh a maiden away victory of the season over high flying Treviso. High flying? Well, while the Italian sides have not yet burned up this competition, Treviso have looked pretty hot of late, coming in to this match on the back of four consecutive victories, including a 50-24 horsing of the Newportgwentdragons last time out. And while the Dragons are again looking like perennial whipping boys in the PRO12 this season, it takes some mental application to dish out the punishment; mental application that, too often in the past, Embra have failed to apply.
So it was good to hear Mick Bradley noting after no-side that the Gunners prevailed because they 'needed it more'. When under pressure in defence, they held out. When afforded opportunities in attack, they tended to come away with points. And after a pretty ropey start in the set piece, the pack ended the match on top - Rennie's try, indeed, coming off a dominating driving maul as the Embra eight stuck it to the enemy.
During the World Cup, one was struck by how great all of the knock-out matches were, in their different ways. The final may not have been a tryfest, but it was a tremendous drama and the quality of execution of the basic skills was very high. The teams that were successful tended to have decision makers across the field, but particularly in the second five-eighth position. As every callow new 10 came in to try to fill Dan Carter's boots, for example, the 12 outside him stepped up to the plate and took on much of the decision-making burden. It reminded me of the most effective Scottish side of recent years - the 1999 Five Nations champions - where Gregor Townsend had a classic Kiwi playmaking 12 in John Leslie outside him and Alan Tait running superb lines at 13. Looking at Edinburgh's squad, there is now a veritable herd of five-eighths in there who can do a job at 10 and 12 - from the experience of Godman and King to the youth of Hunter, Scott and now Leonard. You can pick your own combination, but any two from those five look like a decent combination.
Edinburgh played a territorial game for much of the opening period, with Man of the Match Leonard's two penalties just reward. The youngster sensibly kept the ball in the right part of the park for much of the time. But after de Luca had been carded in the run-up to the break, Treviso full back Nitoglia nipped over through weak Embra defence at a lineout. Leonard pulled some back, though, with a difficult penalty on the stroke of halftime, leaving the score 9-8.
After the restart, both playmakers notched further penalties before Edinburgh made the match safe with Rennie's try going in to the final ten minutes.
The Heineken campaign begins once again next weekend and it would be quite nice if Edinburgh still had even an outside chance of qualification when the Embra tifosi are savouring their Christmas dinners and, indeed, the Inter-City series. In order to do that, they need to win at least one away match as well as all their home fixtures. If they can get off to a flyer when they travel to Reading to face London Irish next week, things could be looking quite promising.
Benetton Treviso: Burton 1P 1DG, Nitoglia 1T.
Edinburgh: Leonard 5P 1C, Jacobsen 1T
Benetton Treviso: Nitoglia; Benvenuti, Galon, Sgarbi, McLean; Burton, Botes; Rizzo, Sbaraglini, Cittadini, Pavanello, van Zyl, Minto, Zanni, Filippucci. Subs used: Semenzato, Di Santo, Galon, Williams, Fernandez-Rouyet, Vidal, Vermaak, Vosawai.
Edinburgh: Thompson; Jones, De Luca, Scott, Visser; Leonard, Blair; Jacobsen, Ford, Cross, Lozada, Gilchrist, Denton, Rennie, N Talei. Subs: Niven, Turnbull, McInally.
Referee: Macpherson (SRU).