Edinburgh v Zebre Rugby Club
Edinburgh returned to winning ways this evening as they recorded a hard-fought victory over a courageous Zebre outfit.
In an even first-half, Edinburgh drew first blood via Jason Tovey’s penalty (3-0), before the visitors stunned Myreside with an excellently worked score of their own from Johan Meyer (3-5). With both sides struggling to maintain possession, the match soon descended into an arm wrestle, however, the clash was given a much-needed injection of life when Stuart McInally raced under the posts from 50 metres out to re-establish his side’s lead (10-5). The hosts held a slender five-point lead at the break.
The Italian outfit began the second-half with a renewed vigour and, perhaps, looked the more likely of the two sides to score next. Edinburgh matched the visitors step-for-step in defence, however, as Jamie Ritchie gave the Myreside faithful something to cheer about with two thunderous, but well-timed, tackles. Duncan Weir extended Edinburgh’s lead further with sweetly struck penalty (13-5), however, Richard Cockerill’s side were soon the architects of their own downfall as Nathan Fowles had his box-kick charged down for Zebre’s second score of the evening (13-12).
The visitors would take the lead when try-scorer Marcello Violi tapped over a straightforward penalty (13-15), but Duncan Weir would once again answer with yet another tricky penalty of his own (16-15). With nothing between the two sides, the Edinburgh support were treated to nervy, but grandstand finish. However, it was the hosts who held on to secure their third win of the season, leaving them in fourth place in Guinness PRO14 Conference B.
With key squad members, such as club captain Magnus Bradbury, Blair Kinghorn and Ben Toolis, returning to first XV action, it was the hosts who looked the more assured in the opening stages. Edinburgh were rewarded for their patient attacking play when Jason Tovey chipped over a simple penalty after only eight minutes. Edinburgh were let off the hook when Zebre stand-off Carlo Canna missed shockingly right of the posts, however, the hosts weren’t so lucky minutes later as the Italians scored the first try of the contest. When Tommaso Boni broke through the Edinburgh defence, the centre did excellently to patiently bide his time before putting Meyer in for the simplest of scores.
Edinburgh reacted positively, however, and on 30 minutes McInally provided the Edinburgh faithful with the moment of the match. When Nathan Fowles collected a deep kick, the scrum-half broke magnificently before offloading to the supporting McInally. Like a shot out of a cannon, the hooker took off from 50 metres out, before racing under the posts to ignite the Myrside support heading into the break.With the second-half dissolving into a stalemate, both sides struggled to maintain possession, however, that didn’t stop Dougie Fife from attempting to match McInally’s first-half footrace with a nigh on wonder score of his own. After collecting the ball on the half, the Sevens man took off, only to be halted by the scrambling Zebre defence only metres out.
When Venditti breached the Edinburgh defence, it appeared as though the visitors were in for their second try of the evening, however, Tom Brown was the hero on this occasion as the 27-year-old dragged his opposite number into touch at the 11th hour. Edinburgh weren’t so fortunate only minutes later, however, as Zebre scrum-half Violi pounced on Fowles’ box-kick, resulting in a scramble for the Edinburgh try-line, which the Italian scrum-half easily won to put his side right back in the clash.
Violi would kick a further penalty to give his side a 13-15 lead heading into the closing stages, however, Edinburgh’s pack would soon grab the match by the scruff of its neck. With a scrum deep inside Zebre territory, the hosts front-eight gave an almighty grunt, and with the Italian forwards heading backwards at pace, the referee had no other option but to award Edinburgh the penalty, which Duncan Weir stroked home with aplomb.
With only minutes to go, Edinburgh held a 16-15 lead, but the Italian side continued to push for the winner. With a penalty kicked to the corner, Zebre had the chance to construct one final attack, however, when the throw was deemed squint, the hosts held on for a hard-earned victory.
Despite the victory, head coach Richard Cockerill was understandably frustrated that his side didn’t play to their full abilities. “Credit to the players, they found a way to win the game – which is, ultimately, the most important thing.
“They [Zebre] played well and they’ll cause teams problems with the style that they are playing but we have to be better – that wasn’t a good enough performance. We have to be more accurate. We’ve got a lot to learn and we’ve got to learn quickly – but it’s a work in progress."