Benetton secured their fourth win of the United Rugby Championship season as they stunned Edinburgh 24-22 at Hive Stadium on Friday.
Toulouse-bound Blair Kinghorn scored a double on his farewell outing but his last home match for his club ended in disappointment as his late error gifted the visitors a try.
It was announced on Thursday that the 26-year-old Scotland full-back will join the Top 14 champions after next weekend’s visit to Ulster, and for a long period of the night he looked on course to be the hero as his two tries – either side of a score from Matt Currie – had the Scots in the driving seat.
But, in a cruel twist, Kinghorn’s 68th-minute mistake allowed Benetton centre Marco Zanon to score his second try of the night and edged the Italians into a slender lead they held on to until the end.
Edinburgh started strongly and – after Duhan van der Merwe squandered a second-minute chance – Kinghorn had the home crowd in raptures as he darted over in the third minute after being fed on the right by Ben Healy, who subsequently added the extras.
The hosts were forced into a change when Dave Cherry went off injured and was replaced by fellow Scotland hooker Ewan Ashman.
Edinburgh continued on the front foot and after James Lang had a score ruled out following a TMO review, they got their second try in the 14th minute when Currie eased his way over from close range after being played in by a perfect kick out to the left from Healy. The stand-off was off target with his conversion attempt.
Both sides then had tries chalked off following TMO reviews, with Benetton’s Malakai Fekitoa penalised for a knock-on as he tried to force the ball down before Currie’s effort for Edinburgh was ruled out due to a forward-pass by Kinghorn.
Benetton got themselves back into the game with a sensational solo score from Ignacio Mendy in the 32nd minute as the wing grabbed the ball five metres in front of his own try-line and raced almost the full length of the pitch unchecked, leaving Healy in his wake as he surged over the line. Jacob Umaga converted.
Four minutes later an Umaga penalty brought the Italians within two points of their hosts.
In the last action of the half Edinburgh reasserted their authority as Kinghorn bolted in for his second of the evening after good build-up play from Healy, Van der Merwe and Wes Goosen. Healy converted to open up a nine-point lead at the interval.
But Benetton hit back early in the second half as Zanon pushed his way through after a lineout, with Umaga converting.
Having lost their way following their bright opening to the match, Edinburgh moved five points clear in the 54th minute with a penalty from Healy after Benetton sub Mirco Spagnolo was yellow-carded for collapsing the maul.
But the Italians managed to get ahead for the first time in the 68th minute when Kinghorn got in a terrible tangle just in front of his own line and fumbled the ball into the path of Zanon who dotted down for his second try. Umaga was again on point with the conversion.
The visitors had Eli Snyman sent off for a head-on-head tackle on Van der Merwe with two minutes left but Edinburgh – who would have gone top of the table with a win – were unable to muster the score they needed, with Healy sending a last-gasp drop-goal attempt wide.
The home side were second best in terms of possession and territory but were the more clinical to achieve a morale-boosting bonus-point win.
Cardiff’s other tries came from Gabriel Hamer-Webb, Liam Belcher and Mason Grady with Tinus de Beer adding four conversions and a penalty.
Ruhan Nel scored two tries for the Stormers, Andre-Hugo Venter the other with Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu kicking three conversions and a penalty.
It took the Stormers only four minutes to take the lead when Venter finished off a driving line-out.
Cardiff’s poor start continued when de Beer’s restart went straight into touch and they were made to pay when Nel crashed over to reward a sustained period of pressure.
The home side’s woes continued when Harri Millard was forced to leave the field to fail an HIA after being on the receiving end of a thumping tackle from Jean Luc du Plessis.
Cardiff opened their account when De Beer made amends for a couple of basic errors by creating an excellent try.
The fly-half sliced through a gap before his well-timed kick ahead was collected by Millard’s replacement, Hamer-Webb to score.
Feinberg-Mngomezulu kicked a penalty to extend the visitors’ lead but Cardiff roared back into contention with another impressive try.
Grady ran strongly down the left flank before Lopeti Timani made a further dent in the defence with Belcher on hand to take advantage and score.
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De Beer converted before Feinberg-Mngomezulu was short with a penalty from inside his own half to leave Stormers with a 17-14 interval lead.
10 minutes after the restart, some skilful passing created a second for Nel but Cardiff’s response was immediate when Grady powered over from a pre-planned move following a close-range line-out.
De Beer converted before adding a penalty to bring the scores level with 17 minutes remaining with Ben Thomas missing the chance to land the knock-out blow by firing wide with a 45-metre penalty after Connor Evans had been sin-binned for a high challenge on Josh Turnbull.
It mattered little as error-ridden Stormers presented their hosts with one final opportunity with Litterick’s try being awarded after a number of TMO replays.