URC: Edinburgh outlast Zebre to boost play-off hopes

Six-try display gives home team a potentially valuable victory in their bid to claim a quarter-final place

Ewan Ashman
Ewan Ashman scores for Edinburgh against Zebre. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

Edinburgh 40

Zebre 14


@ Hive Stadium

EDINBURGH had to dig deep to see off Zebre, and for an hour or more the outcome of the match remained in some doubt. In the end, though, the home team got the bonus-point win they wanted to give their URC play-off hopes a timely boost.

Sean Everitt’s team scored six tries in the end, two of them in the final few minutes. It was far from their prettiest performance of the season, but it was their third win on the bounce, and has taken them up to sixth in the table. They could fall back down two or three places when their closest rivals play today, but these five points were nonetheless a potentially vital contribution to their fight for a top-eight place.

“Happy with the five points, frustrating second half,” was the head coach’s verdict. “Credit to Zebre, they’ve given a hard time to every opposition that they’ve played against. 

“So we knew we were going to be in a tussle, I’m just happy that the guys showed the composure in the last 20 to pull it through comfortably.

“When we came in on Monday after the break we said it was going to take something special from each and every individual over the next four weeks, putting in a bit of extra work at the weekends if need be.”

Edinburgh looked determined to play an open, running game right from the start in their quest for a try bonus, and if anything they played too much rugby too deep inside their own half in their first few possessions. Zebre, who announced earlier this week that Massimo Brunello will take over from Fabio Roselli as head coach next season, dominated territory in the opening 10 minutes or so, but struggled to create anything approaching a real scoring chance during that time.

At the other end, a high punt from Ben Healy briefly threatened to open up the visiting defence when collected by Wes Goosen, but the move broke down when Mark Bennett failed to gather a chip ahead by the in-form full-back.

Even so, that moment was a sign of the increasing pressure that was being exerted by the home side, and they made that pressure tell  just past the quarter-hour when Scotland hooker Ewan Ashman finished off from a lineout maul after a penalty had been sent to touch on the right. Healy hooked the conversion attempt just wide of the far post.

Zebre hit back less than ten minutes later, but in controversial fashion. With nothing looking on, Geronimo Prisciantelli somehow managed to drift through a gaping hole in the Edinburgh defence and touch down close to the posts. The home team protested that Grant Gilchrist had been blocked in the build-up, but after a lengthy review, referee Ben Breakspear, taking charge of his first URC game, ruled that the try should stand. Thomas Dominguez’ conversion put the Italians in front.

Edinburgh had a chance to hit back immediately when they sent a penalty to touch some 15 metres out on the left, but this time the throw-in was stolen by the defence. Two or three minutes later, however, they tried again from the identical position, and this time they got it right, with Scotland hooker Ashman claiming his second. 

Healy converted to put his team five points up, and a couple of minutes later the stand-off added another two points after WP Nel had got Edinburgh’s third try of the evening. The scoring move again began with a lineout, but this time the play went out to the backs. The pack joined in the close-range assault on the line, and Nel was able to finish off from very close range. 

Three tries and a 12-point lead were a good return from the first 40 minutes for the home team, but they began the second 40 determined to kill off the game with that bonus-point score as soon as possible. Yet, as in the first half, Zebre had the better of the opening exchanges, and after a long period of stalemate, they claimed the first score after the break as winger Jacopo Trulla finished off following lengthy pressure.  Giovanni Montemauri converted to reduce the deficit to 19-14.

With the match back in the balance and that fourth try proving elusive, Edinburgh needed to reassert their dominance. They did exactly that, at last, with quarter of an hour to play.  First, another penalty went to the corner and another maul set off for the lineout. The maul was collapsed illegally, but the move continued, and after good work by Ben Vellacott, Healy popped up a pass from which Chris Dean scored in the right corner. It needed another long review before the try was given, but stand it did. Healy converted to make it 26-14.

Vellacott added a fifth a few minutes from time, then in time added on Javan Sebastian got a sixth touchdown off a lineout. Cammy Scott converted both, having come off the bench moments earlier to end Healy’s record of playing in every minute of the league campaign to date.

Teams – 

Edinburgh: W Goosen; M Currie, M Bennett (C Dean 60), J Lang, D van der Merwe; B Healy (C Scott 77), A Price (B Vellacott 60); P Schoeman (B Venter 56), E Ashman (D Cherry 56),  W Nel (J Sebastian 56), S Skinner (M Sykes 56), G Gilchrist (captain), J Ritchie, H Watson (L Crosbie 67), V Mata.

Zebre Parma: G Prisciantelli; J Trulla, F Paea (D Mazza 66), E Lucchin, S Gesi; G Montemauri (L Pani 66), T Dominguez (G Garcia 55); M Hasa (S Taddei 58), G Ribaldi (T di Bartolomeo 69), J Pitinari (R Genovese 55), M Canali (D Sisi 48), A Zambonin, G Ferrari, T Fox-Matamua (B Stavile 48), G Licata (captain).

Scorers –

Edinburgh: Tries: Ashman 2, Nel, Dean, Vellacott, Sebastian. Cons: Healy 3, Scott 2.

Zebre: Tries: Prisciantelli, Trulla. Cons: Dominguez, Montemauri.

Scoring sequence (Edinburgh first): 5-0; 5-5; 5-7; 10-7; 12-7; 17-7; 19-7 ht; 19-12; 19-14; 24-14; 26-14; 31-14; 33-14; 38-14; 40-14.

Referee: Ben Breakspear (Wales).

Attendance: 6,792.

About Stuart Bathgate 1407 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.


  1. Whilst the performances this season have been poor in general, we are 1 off the same number of wins as the team top of the league. I’m choosing to put a positive spin on this, whilst watching this Edinburgh side has felt like a chore, we are doing reasonably well in terms of wins. Hopefully this is the building blocks to get the team into the habit of winning and once that is ingrained into the team, we can then start adding the extra tries needed to get those valuable bonus points. We have also barely had a full compliment of back 3 players this season, with Boff, Darcy, Goosen all out for prolonged periods and kinghorn leaving halfway through the season. Plus our injury list in general is frequently in double figures. I appreciate that what we are watching currently is turgid stuff and some players in particular are really not showing why they have deserved a contract, but I’m optimistic that this will set us up for a real push at being semi respectable next season.

    Just to note – In the 7th paragraph in this article, Healy’s kick didn’t threaten to open up the home defence. It didn’t pan out, but it didn’t go that badly.

    • Re your last par, thanks for pointing out that error – corrected now. I meant visiting defence.

  2. My second comment also didn’t appear …

    Rules for equal on points are no of wins then points difference, so our extra win might prove quite valuable.

  3. I wrote my comments last night after I came back from the game but it seems to have disappeared. So without repeating it all and responding to some of Adams comments- yes its a solid win against a poor side and the forwards went well but the backs really do lack any fluency and penetration. Was there a single line break outwith Vellacotts try. I know we have 11 wins which is great but we can still easily not make the top 8. You watch other teams this weekend – Glasgow, Leinster, Munster and there is so much more to their back play – dummy runners, behind the back plays, offloads in the tackle, switches, grubber kicks that actually create tries and more. Most of this is absent from Edinburghs play and you cant say they haven’t had the time to develop this. They dont do it because presumably its not the way they have chosen to play. If Franco Smith was the coach they would look a lot different and play with more enterprise. So Im not sure when Everett is going to press the exciting button but I fear there isn’t one. My biggest worry is that some of the backs dont have the ability to play this way even if they tried. I watched the Munster highlights and they are playing a much more expansive game than they used to cutting Connacht to shreds, I will be back next week and be happy with any sort of win against Munster but that will be a real test.

    • Ross I absolutely agree there could be more and overtime i expect it to improve. But some of the comments on Edinburgh games are overly negative, and calling for people to be sacked is absurd.
      Munster, Glasgow Leinster and Bulls are all settled sides with well in bedded coaches and systems. Edinburgh were basket case before Evritt turned up and inherited a squad he has no say in putting together. Edinburgh maybe have some excellent back 3 (when available) but they have a tactical kicking 10 and centres who wouldn’t get it any of the other top 6 teams. Changes for next season and continued upwards trajectory is possible.
      I just don’t buy into the doom and gloom

    • Agreed, Ross. Sadly I do not hold out much hope for the last two games against quality streetwise opposition.

      I do wonder what our National coach gets up to outwith the international cycle of games. It used to be said that GT was a good backs coach, so why not second him to the Edinburgh setup and help develop the backs some of whom he will know from the international squads. That’s a missed opportunity of two and a half months which would open GT ‘s eyes to other younger talent in the squad. It should not cost Edinburgh or the SRU any more and is maximising use of well paid personnel. Probably too late for this season, but, who knows, maybe after GT completes his post mortem on the 6 Nations, he will be available.

  4. Drudgefest. Seriously, Edinburgh fans need to get to some Super Series matches before it finishes if they want to watch entertainment.

  5. Will be interesting to see which 9’s go on the summer tour. 3 out of White, Horne, Dobie & Vellacott unless treated as a totally experimental tour (and who knows with GT!). Think Vellacott has had about 5 minutes in a Scotland shirt off the bench a couple of seasons ago. Definitely added a spark vs Zebre and would be good to see how he goes when given a reasonable amount of game time.

    • Vellacot is pound shop George Horne. He made a great break las night but his final pass was so poor. He then took advantage of a visibly wilting Zebre in the last quarter – Zebre fade badly every game and bench 9s virtually always always speed games up, its the job and expectation. His basic game isn’t nearly good enough especially passing and game management

      • quite possibly. Did you watch his brain f4rt against Bulls? That sort of thing is what counts against him

        I’d take White as senior 9, with Dobie and Afshar

  6. By the way, finally found how equally ranked by points teams are separated …

    So, it’s possible that extra win we have could see us scrape through to Champions Cup, but still looks like the Benetton game might be the decider …..!!!!

    Great competition this year 👍

    The positions of the Clubs in the League Stage will be entered into the Standard League Table and will be based on the following, in order:

    a) the number of League Points awarded to each Club;

    b) if unresolved, the number of Matches won by each Club in the League Stage;

    c) if unresolved, the difference between the total points scored and the total points conceded on the field of play for each Club in all Matches in the League Stage;

    d) if unresolved, the number of tries scored by each Club in all Matches in the League Stage;

    e) if unresolved, the number of points scored on the field of play by each Club in all Matches in the League Stage;

    f) if unresolved, the difference between the number of tries scored and the number of tries conceded by each Club in all Matches in the League Stage;

    g) if unresolved, the number of Players suspended by a Disciplinary Committee or Appeal Committee for incidents taking place in the League Stage (i.e. the Club with fewer will be positioned higher);

    h) if unresolved, the number of yellow cards received by Players for each Club in all Matches in the League Stage (i.e. the Club with fewer will be positioned higher); and

    i) if unresolved, the toss of a coin or as otherwise determined by Pro Rugby Championship in its absolute discretion.

  7. I am struggling to understand Edinburgh fans this year, vast improvements in terms of results. 11 wins this season after only 6 last year, have beaten 4 of the current top 8 including Glasgow.
    Everitt not getting the credit he deserves for turning them round especially given the injuries and poorly balance squad he’s been forced to deal with.
    Yeh the attack good be better but it takes times

    • Sorry Adam,I was at the match and it was absolutely dire. The backs are simply unable to put anything together-and frankly haven’t all season.The skill levels always look way below just about every other team in the URC.Not acceptable from teams that on paper should be performing way better.
      Poor fare on a gorgeous evening for running rugby (Vellacott the honourable exception to criticism !)

      • And yet 11 wins in 16 games, surely that counts for something.
        Would you rather the Blair days of gorgeous running open rugby and defeats.
        Edinburgh have a new coach with a really imbalanced squad made worse by injuries, there is a significant amount of growth still to come from this team.
        But the first thing a team needs to do is win games and Edinburgh are winning games.

        • The thing is, scoring the four tries each game is hugely important. Of course you will take winning over losing, but only Glasgow and Leinster have won more games than Edinburgh, yet we are in 7th, and could easily come away from the next two games with no points at all and finish outside the top eight. It is very telling that only one team, Dragons has scored as few bonus points as us – and they are second from bottom on the table.

  8. There is no variety, creativity or deception in the backs. Healy is a limited 10 who clearly cannot get his line moving. He needs some coaching from the great Finn Russell! Bennett dies with the ball far too often rather than looking to pass and for space to create an overlap. When did we last see vdm receive a ball in space from an overlap?

  9. Vellacott was outstanding again and a superb running threat. He should be the regular starter. I don’t really see what Price adds – he just kicks ball back to the opposition.

  10. Pretty predictable and uninspiring stuff. At least Vellacot injected some pace and directness into the game. Just seems Healy is unable to offer and flair or creativity despite his very good kicking skills. At one point he and Bennett seemed to lose it with each other. Time to give Cammy Scott a run. Couldn’t quite believe Currie’s selection in the wing as he has been the best centre all season. All in all a frustrating evening despite the win. Summer recruitment is going to be key

  11. Munster and Benetton will not be very concerned at all about their prospects of beating Edinburgh in the final two games. The team’s attack is completely non-existent and it’s very poor to watch.

    What strikes me too is that even after victories the players don’t appear very happy with life. On the final whistle last night Dean, Lang and others looked downcast. As for DVDM, he seems to be regretting his decision to come back, and who can blame him!

  12. Back play somewhat laboured throughout, less so when Vellacott came on.
    Price constant box kicks simply hands the ball back to the opponents, is it any wonder that DVDM looks exasperated.
    Desperately need a new attack coach.
    Ultimately a good result nut need to win last 2 games

  13. The improvement in results is massive, 11 wins so far over 6 last year.
    The attack needs to improve but Edinburgh needed to start winning games and they have. Hopefully with some additions over the summer the attack can continue to develop and results will keep getting better.
    It’s been a long time since both Pro teams were competitive in the league.

  14. Game changed when Vellacott came on before that it was dire. Edinburgh’s attack through the backs is non-existant. Watched DVDM’s body language and facial expression he just looked fed up. We need a back-line capable of attack and we need to fire the attack coach and get a new one. Every score was as a result of forward play. Compared to Glasgow really really poor to watch.

  15. First time Ive ever sat in a t-shirt at the Hive in tropical conditions. A poor match I thought despite the final scoreline. Edinburgh forwards were too strong for Zebre but their backs actually looked sharper in attack than ours. We got the 5 points we needed but I could cut and past some comments from the Cardiff match regards our backs – still lack fluency and Vdm continues to run sideways, crash into people and fail to pass. He draws so many defenders but needs to learn to offload to support runners. Vellacott brought some real tempo when he came on and should start ahead of Price. Munster game next week will be crucial – I fear that they have a better all round game but lets hope our forwards can get the upper hand.

  16. So what are we complaining about this week Edinburgh fans? Massive improvements this season in terms of results.

  17. Quite an enjoyable watch, but suspect that level won’t be sufficient to beat Munster. Worried we’re going to end up 9th !

    Still will be there again next week, so fingers crossed for a more sparkling attack. It’s still all to play for


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