Edinburgh managed to keep Zebre scoreless for almost the entire duration of the second half as they came from behind to clinch victory in their opening fixture of the new tournament.
Carlo Canna’s early penalty nudged the visitors ahead, but the early scorer was the catalyst for Edinburgh taking the lead.
When he was penalised for obstruction just outside his own side’s 22, Edinburgh went for the corner rather than the sticks.
Hooker Mike Willemse got close off the maul drive, but with penalty advantage and a chance to chuck it wide, Blair Kinghorn raced into the attacking line and quickly fed it on to Eroni Sau who crossed in the left corner. Nathan Chamberlain converted impressively from out wide.
Canna reduced the deficit with another penalty after a sensational take and break by Pierre Bruno had led to Zebre quickly breaking and causing consternation in the Edinburgh backline.
The mercurial stand-off then kicked another penalty to within millimetres of the Edinburgh try-line, and the Zebre forwards had enough to breech the last-ditch defences through Andrea Lovotti.
After his transfer to London Irish was confirmed this week, Willemse seemed like he wanted to make sure Edinburgh were getting their last few pennies out of him with some tremendous breakdown work, one of which led to a penalty for Edinburgh with seconds remaining in the half.
However, the mercurial – I’m using that word again because people keep misusing it – Kinghorn kicked his touch finder into touch behind the try-line, to hand Zebre the easiest of get outs.
*SPECIAL MENTION* Damien Hoyland’s kick-chase and tackle from the restart of Lovotti’s try. Even if he slipped, it looked Instagram-perfect.
Half-time: Edinburgh 7 – 13 Zebre
A topsy-turvy beginning to the second half was stopped by a Zebre knock-on, and once Edinburgh had tanked through Zebre’s scrum they showed that their other set-piece was as good.
Captain and birthday boy Luke Crosbie claimed the line-out, the ball went through the half-backs to Sau who weaved his way past multiple defenders into centre-field position in the 22, and Crosbie was the man on hand to push through the fatigued Zebre forwards defending the line.
Now firmly on the front foot, Edinburgh went close to the Zebre try-line on both flanks, Kinghorn dragged into touch on the right, Sau on the left, but the pressure eventually told.
Edinburgh had brought on some of the older heads off the bench, such as Nel and Mata by now, but it was 20-year old Matt Currie who put some distance between the teams when he took Chris Dean’s short-ball inside to the line.
The ball went from end-to-end during a lung-shattering passage of play which seemed destined in leading to an Edinburgh try until Nel’s pass went awry, and although the hosts dealt with Canna’s kick through, Shiel kicked the ball dead when spotting a bit of space behind Zebre’s last line.
Nathan Chamberlain’s 78th min penalty put the result beyond doubt only for a fantastic counter-score by Johan Meyer to be the last play of the game when he finished after more scintillating wing play by Bruno.
SRBlog POTM: Whatever super-serum it was that Luke Crosbie took at half-time should be replicated and dealt to every Scottish rugby player. Try-scoring, turnover winning, tough tackling performance from the night’s captain.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)