Scottish Daily Mail
FORTY MINUTES OF FUN
ROB ROBERTSON Bennett hails side’s thrilling first-half display as Edinburgh reach the summit in some style
MIKE BLAIR’S side may be missing the fans because of Covid restrictions — but pity the supporters who are being denied the chance to see some spectacular performances at close quarters.
Edinburgh top the United Rugby Championship table, and it’s the first time the capital side have been league leaders at any stage of a season since 2009.
Thankfully the days of grinding out dull wins under Richard Cockerill are long gone. There is a dynamism about the team that is a joy to watch, and their entertaining displays are not only paying dividends in terms of results but deserve to be played out in front of full houses.
The first half of Saturday’s behind-closed-doors match against Cardiff, when they ran in four tries, was a case in point. It is hard to remember a more exciting 40 minutes of rugby from an Edinburgh side.
Centre Mark Bennett, who was the pick of the back division at the weekend, certainly felt it was the best he had been involved in since he joined the club from Glasgow Warriors in 2017.
‘We would be hard pushed to say otherwise,’ said 28-year-old Bennett. ‘We were sharp, we were clinical and we even missed a few opportunities as well.
‘As a back line, that was really, really exciting. We are getting our roles right and when we execute them we are scoring. What more do you want?
‘Also, don’t forget the role of our forward pack in what happened as they were outstanding. They were so blooming physical and then we have players out wide who can do damage.
‘The second half was tough going as it was stop start and hard to find momentum. We made it hard for ourselves and we gave away a cheap try and a few cheap line breaks.
‘So there is plenty to still work on but it was still a hell of a performance from us. When it goes totally right we are going to be even harder to defend against.’
Blair’s back division looked threatening every time they had the ball. And that was even without the services of injured Scotland winger Darcy Graham.
Bennett scored two tries, one in each half, with the others coming from James Lang and the Argentine duo of Emiliano Boffelli and Ramiro Moyano.
Boffelli and Moyano have hit the ground running since they joined the club earlier this season.
‘They are brilliant,’ enthused Bennett. ‘I love playing with them. They are great guys, on and off the field. You see what they bring on the pitch. They are quality, quality players and I think their work in the back three is excellent.
‘I know it is a few weeks ago now but in the win against Saracens Emiliano was shouting to Ramiro in Spanish and he was translating it straight away to me in English.
‘That in itself was incredible alongside the excellent performances they were putting in on the pitch,’
Bennett is enjoying his rugby more than ever since his arrival from Scotstoun. He is playing with confidence and his first try, which followed an exchange of passes with Boffelli before he went over in the corner, was one of the best he has scored for the club.
‘I won’t score a better one than that,’ admitted the man from Cumnock. ‘I am really chuffed with it. It was great work and we had a penalty back at the scrum which then gave us the licence to go for it.
‘It was a nice bit of skill from Boff and I was in at the corner. As a team, we are getting the ball into space and playing a good brand of rugby — it is a great group of guys to be involved in. I am loving it here.’
Magnus Bradbury, who is now an even more important player for Edinburgh since Bill Mata was
ruled out for the rest of the season following knee surgery, was named man of the match. But Bennett certainly ran him close.
The centre got an honourable mention for his outstanding performance from head coach Blair, who leads his team into Europe over the next two weeks.
‘Mark Bennett was excellent out there, and as a team we are heading in the right direction,’ said Blair ahead of a trip to London Irish in the Challenge Cup this coming weekend and then the visit of Brive the following Saturday.
Confidence is high as they return to Europe off the back of that away win over Saracens in their opening match, on top of six victories, one draw and only one defeat in the league.
‘It’s an exciting challenge for us away to London Irish,’ said Bennett. ‘They are a good side and they have had some cracking performances in the Premiership this year.
‘We just want to follow on from what we have done. We had a great win away at Saracens and then a great win for us in the league against Cardiff, so we really just have to keep that momentum going.’