Edinburgh v Zebre Rugby
A promising month of drama ended with bitter disappointment for home fans as Zebre posted their first win of the season at BT Murrayfield.
After the giddy highs of back to back European Challenge Cup wins, Edinburgh simply did not do enough to manage the scoreboard and profit from opportunities in a disappointing performance, particularly after the heroics against Harlequins six days’ ago.
It seemed that a final quarter surge might enable Edinburgh to overcome a typically stuffy Zebre, who had defended with great gusto in front of the 3,304 crowd.
Tries from substitutes Ross Ford and his fellow front-row colossus Murray McCallum – the latter’s first for Edinburgh – both converted saw the hosts reverse a 0-12 deficit.
Had Edinburgh’s bench, none more so than Cornell du Preez, got them out of jail? Alas, it was not to be.
Edinburgh had been looking for their fourth successive victory but endured a fraught first-half where ball retention was something of a problem.
Zebre had taken an early lead through a second minute penalty from their stand-off Carlo Canna and though the hosts enjoyed a sustained period of possession and pressure, they had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard.
Furthermore they were disrupted by injures to Blair Kinghorn and Stuart McInally. The former returned (after a seven minute replacement stint from Glenn Bryce), but the latter departed for good, with Ross Ford joining the fray.
The second quarter saw Canna extend the Italians’ lead with his second penalty and although Damien Hoyland tried to spark matters from deep, Edinburgh were still struggling to make an impact.
A further injury alteration – Jason Tovey leaving the field, Bryce on and Kinghorn moving to stand-off – and an abortive long-range strike from Tommaso Castello – suggested the half would peter out, without further incident.
But right on the half-time whistle, Canna landed a 25 metre drop-goal.
Half-time: Edinburgh Rugby 0-9 Zebre
Tovey was restored from the restart and Edinburgh opened purposefully with Sean Kennedy, Phil Burleigh and Vili Mata combining before Alan Dell spilled out wide.
Zebre, however, were next to score with Canna landing his third penalty from wide on the left for 0-12 after 49 minutes.
Edinburgh needed to find inspiration from somewhere and it appeared to come in the shape of Cornell du Preez who replaced John Hardie.
He ran hard and straight bequeathing some welcome quick ball but still we had to wait until the 61stminute for Edinburgh’s first points – a lineout catch and drive try from Ford. Kinghorn, who ended the night at 10 with Tovey departing, converted superbly from the right touchline.
Was that to be the catalyst for an escape? It appeared on the cards as McCallum surged over from close-range for Sam Hidalgo-Clyne to convert for 14-12 after 66 minutes.
Composure was required now. It was a time for Edinburgh to play with territory uppermost in mind.
Sadly for the home following it did not materialise as Zebre found space on their left for Venditti to score, which Canna converted.
Full-time: Edinburgh Rugby (0) 14-19 (9) Zebre
EDINBURGH RUGBY: 15. Blair Kinghorn; 14. Damien Hoyland, 13. Chris Dean, 12. Phil Burleigh, 11. Tom Brown; 10. Jason Tovey, 9. Sean Kennedy; 1. Allan Dell, 2. Stuart McInally, 3. Felipe Arregui, 4. Ben Toolis, 5. Grant Gilchrist CAPTAIN, 6. Viliame Mata, 7. John Hardie, 8. Magnus Bradbury. Replacements: 16. Ross Ford, 17. Jack Cosgrove, 18. Murray McCallum, 19. Fraser McKenzie, 20. Cornell Du Preez, 21. Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22. Michael Allen, 23. Glenn Bryce.
ZEBRE: Edoardo Padovani, Giulio Bisegni, Tommaso Boni, Tommaso Castello, Giovanbattista Venditti, Carlo Canna, Marcello Violi, Andries Van Schalkwyk, Johan Meyer, Maxime Mbandà, George Biagi, Quintin Geldenhuys, Pietro Ceccarelli, Tommaso D’Apice, Andrea Lovotti. Replacements: Massimo Ceciliani, Andrea De Marchi, Dario Chistolini, Federico Ruzza, Derick Minnie, Guglielmo Palazzani, Matteo Pratichetti, Giovanni D’Onofrio.