The first thing of note that happened in this encouraging performance at BT Murrayfield was a sharp break from Edinburgh standoff Jason Tovey, and the second was Rory Sutherland fumbling a short range pass; the first touch of his 50th appearance for Edinburgh.
It summed the game up quite nicely: Tovey was in a golden mood and almost everything he tried worked, while the Edinburgh front row had a torrid time.
Perhaps in danger of becoming the forgotten man of Scottish Rugby having just missed out on an Olympic place, Damien Hoyland returned from injury with an excellent performance and two first half tries. The first came when Treviso popped the ball out of their own ruck and Hoyland snatched it up before sprinting a good three quarters of the pitch for the opening score.
Hamish Watson – still keeping John Hardie out of the team – continued his strong run of form by battering through several despairing tackles for the second try. Whisper it: Edinburgh were half way to a bonus point inside 8 minutes of play.
Treviso’s Tommy Allan returned from a HIA, having been replaced by an Irishman wearing headgear and googles – parachuted into the side perhaps – and got Treviso on the board with a penalty after 20 minutes, but that was largely it in terms of rank indiscipline as Edinburgh made a very good account of themselves all night in terms of discipline and defence.
They also had spades of possession to play with and after some sustained rumbles from the pack led by captain Grant Gilchrist, a neat 1-2 by Hoyland and Michael Allen gave the Edinburgh winger his second of the night.
It was good hands from Hoyland (again) who put the ball in the control of the physical Magus Bradbury, allowing him a little space to rampage through the smallest gap – which was enough given the Italian side’s slack tackling. Tovey converted to make it 26-3 at the break, bonus point secure.
Half-time: Edinburgh 26-3 Treviso
Ewan McQuillin had been brought into the Edinburgh side as cover for the injured WP Nel and made a decent fist of things in the loose but Treviso came out in the second half holding the whip hand at the set scrum, and that continued to the end regardless of changes. For Edinburgh it was probably the big disappointment of the night, and for the Italians the sole source of comfort.
It gave them the platform for Marco Fuser’s try when the second row powered over from close range, forcing his way through the tackles of Sean Kennedy and Sutherland. Allan converted to make it 26-10 but a Treviso comeback looked distinctly unlikely even against a traditionally fragile Edinburgh side.
Instead, Edinburgh responded with intent, well marshalled by the lively Sean Kennedy while outside Jason Tovey was both a steadying hand when required or a source of inspiration when he saw an opportunity. A wobbly but expertly timed miss pass from the ex-Dragons man put Tom Brown in for their fifth try to take the scoreline back out of reach.
Watson went off looking a little unhappy with possibly a jaw injury but it allowed Hardie a full half hour to reclaim the starting shirt, and he set about it with typically high level of effort despite most of his first ten minutes being spent packing down in scrums.
Tovey then had a couple of magic moments, then a chip and chase that he regathered to give Edinburgh an attacking chance close in. Nathan Fowles fumbled that one, but when they came knocking the next time around the 70 minute mark, Tovey launched a superbly-judged kick pass that Tom Brown could take on the full for another easy winger’s finish.
The final act at the final whistle was Blair Kinghorn rounding off a fine night for the back three when a charging John Hardie flung a speculative pass over his head just before he was engulfed by green striped shirts. Kinghorn – a little taller than he is – snatched it out of the air and dotted down, visibly delighted.
You can only play what’s in front of you and Treviso were, to be frank, not very good. However better teams have been pulled to their level while Edinburgh managed a largely composed performance and held their discipline. Hodge will worry about the scrum till Nel (and possibly Dickinson) returns, but the game time was valuable for McQuillin and academy player Murray McCallum.
The spine of the team in Gilchrist, Bradbury, Kennedy and Tovey set the tone where usually it is just Watson who leads by example; heartening to see and a definite foundation to build on.
SRBlog Man of the Match: In the first half you’d pick Hoyland for his two tries, and in the second Brown had two but it was the man who created them, Jason Tovey, who earns the plaudits. Barely put a foot wrong all night, and at least three super bits of individual skill. You have to feel for a guy who, without such loyalty to the Dragons or perhaps a more visionary national coach – or indeed a Scottish granny – would have a bunch of caps by now.