Edinburgh v Zebre

Edinburgh got their Guinness PRO14 campaign off to a solid start on Saturday, as they came away as the victors in a stunning opening match of the season at BT Murrayfield against Italian side Zebre.

With one loss and one win in their Principal & Prosper pre-season matches, it could have gone either way for the capital side. Zebre aren’t a troop to be sniffed at – having put Edinburgh to the sword in their last meeting in the 2018/19 season, running away with a 34-16 victory.

It seemed the bitter taste of this defeat still hadn’t left Edinburgh’s mouth though, as the home side got the game underway in spectacular fashion, launching a scathing attack just five minutes in, forcing a pile up on the try-line, in which Fraser McKenzie managed to find space to crawl through.

The second row slammed the ball down for Edinburgh’s first try of the game, as Jaco van der Walt added the extra points from out wide. [7-0]

Zebre fired back five minutes later though, as the Italian side’s stand-off, Francois Brummer, stepped forward to take a penalty, almost straight in front of the posts. Sure enough, the South African slotted the kick, making the score 7-3.

A sly pass from a ruck right in front of the posts was an ingenious move from Nic Groom though, as Mark Bennett burst through the Zebre defence, easily trotting over the whitewash as the visiting side could only look on in bewilderment. [14-3]

Again though, Zebre fought back, as just two minutes later, an assault on Edinburgh’s half left the ball dribbling precariously over the try-line. It was then a race to the dead ball line, which Giovanni Licata won, throwing himself onto the loose ball at the last second, for a much-debated score for the visitors. [14-8]

In a tug-of-war fashion, another two minutes passed before Edinburgh then added more glitz to the game in the form of Duhan van der Merwe, who decided to make a bee-line for the opponent’s half. Falling short at the 22’, the winger shared the glory with debutant and captain Nic Groom, who flew over the line, diving down for Edinburgh’s third try of the match. [21-8]

Edinburgh were in control at this point, as great play from the back-line found them in a very dangerous position in the 33rdminute, with Mark Bennett selling a dummy before being pounced upon just feet from the try-line. Matt Scott was in support for the offload though, cruising past the last defender to spot down for the bonus point try, with Jaco van der Walt continuing his good form in kicking duties. [28-8]

Edinburgh weren’t finished their first-half points haul though, as Jaco van der Walt once again lent his boot for a penalty by the posts, making the half-time score 31-8.

A slightly more tentative start to the second-half was soon broken by brilliance from Mark Bennett, who thundered through the outstretched arms of the Zebre defence, keeping his footing for long enough to crash down on the line for his second score of the night. [38-8]

The play was stop-start from here on out, with both sides swiftly snuffing out any form of the opposition’s attack. A flurry of substitutions saw Murray McCallum grace the field for his 50thappearance in Edinburgh colours, whilst Jamie Bhatti. Mike Willemse and Mesu Kunavula all laced up their boots for their competitive debut.

The break in scores was shattered in the 68thminute by Zebre, when Federico Mori managed to crash past the Edinburgh line. Despite the resulting defensive efforts, Mori couldn’t be caught and covered half the pitch in record time to touch down in the corner for the visitor’s second of the match. [38-15]

Edinburgh were a class above on this occasion though, and replied with a try worked entirely through the class of Charlie Shiel, who made the initial break, blistering past his marker, with all the space in the world. Bennett was once again on hand, with Shiel popping the ball up to the centre, who crossed the whitewash with a smile, for his hat-trick. [45-15]

That still wasn’t enough though, as the hunger for tries left Simon Hickey deep in the opposition half. Spotting Jamie Farndale out wide, the replacement stand-off launched a beautiful cross-field kick over to the winger, who plucked it from the air to gracefully land over the try-line for Edinburgh’s final try of the match. Simon Hickey added the last conversion, for a clean sheet of successful kicks, leaving the final score at 52-15.

It was a thrilling first match for the capital side, with no shortage of tries. Fantastic build-up play and world-class judgement throughout meant Edinburgh never took their foot off the pedal. Pulling the strings in centre for a lot of these scores was Mark Bennett, who was the well-deserved Prinicipal & Prosper Man of the Match.

Edinburgh are in action again next week, when they face Cardiff Blues on Saturday 5thOctober at 5:15pm, at Cardiff Arms Park.

live commentary 7:35 PM Saturday 28 Sep 2019

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Kick-off 7:35 PM



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