Zebre v Edinburgh: shadow Scots shred indifferent Italians

Mike Blair's team claimed their first away win of the season with a six-try victory over their bottom-of-the-table opponents.

Edinburgh head coach Mike Blair. Image: Craig Watson ©
Mike Blair saw his Edinburgh side go down to a 12th league defeat of the season. Image: Craig Watson ©

Zebre 19

Edinburgh 38

WHEN coaches say they want their squad to display its strength in depth, this is the sort of performance they hope for. Edinburgh were without ten Scotland internationals for this match in Parma, not to mention another five players who were out injured, but they disposed of Zebre with some ease to claim their first away win of the season. 

Mike Blair’s team were simply very sharp in the first half – far too sharp for the Italians, who were already 19-0 down by the time their openside flanker  MJ Pelser was sent off for a shoulder-to-head contact off the ball on Nick Haining. The visitors’ attack was somewhat blunter in the second half, partly because they had got the bonus point in the bag before the break, and partly because Zebre, like a condemned man demanding a second cigarette before facing the firing squad, dragged out proceedings as much as possible.

Blair was somewhat dissatisfied by those time-wasting tactics, but pretty pleased with the way in which his players had gone  about their business straight from kick-off. “I thought that when we were on it today we were really good,” the head coach said. “This was a Zebre team who have scored a lot of tries at home and who have been an improving team over the last six months. To come away with the number of guys we didn’t have available was really impressive.

“After half-time the game was so stop-start. I don’t know how you stop that. It seemed that the Zebre front row went down at any opportunity – I don’t know if they were struggling or if it was a tactic. On top of the four water breaks you have in a game, it slows everything down and probably reduces it as a spectacle.”

The second half was indeed poor fare, but the free-flowing first 40 more than compensated. Edinburgh took the lead with seven minutes on the clock: Henry Immelman made a half-break following a lineout, and with the home defence on their back feet, Adam McBurney picked up at the breakdown and dashed through to dot down by the posts.

Minutes later McBurney came close to scoring a second from a driven maul after a penalty had been sent to touch, but he was held up by Taine Fox-Matamua and Zebre were awarded the drop-out. That second try was only delayed, though, as at the next lineout Jamie Hodgson finished off from the maul. Boffelli, who had converted the first try, was off target with his kick this time, but a 12-0 lead after quarter of an hour was a more than satisfactory beginning by the visitors.

It got better still midway through the half when Wes Goosen celebrated his debut with his team’s third touchdown. A quickly-taken free kick by Charlie Shiel did the initial damage, captain Luke Crosbie carried on, and then Matt Currie supplied a low, flat pass to the winger, who ran in from the edge of the 22. Boffelli made it 19-0 to the visitors.

Shortly after Pelser had been shown the red card, the game was held up for a while to deal with a couple of injuries, including an HIA which saw Crosbie replaced by Ben Muncaster. An Edinburgh penalty to touch got proceedings under way again, and from the maul McBurney steered his way over for the bonus-point try. Boffelli converted.

A penalty against Haining gave Zebre their first real chance of the match from a lineout maul, and they came close to taking it, too, before being held up on the line. They remained on the front foot for the rest of the half, however, and when Edinburgh continued to offend close to their own line, Boffelli was sent to the sinbin after going offside at the breakdown.

Pierre Bruno thought he had turned pressure into points with a score in the last play of the half – as did referee Craig Evans at first – but a TMO replay showed the winger had lost control of the ball before grounding.

Zebre could not capitalise on being restored to parity of numbers for the first part of the second half either. Edinburgh kept up the pressure for a time, and Immelman got their fifth try from a looping pass by Currie.

Zebre finally came into the game after that, scoring through Alessandro Fusco from a tap penalty and then Luca Rizzoli from close range. Currie added a sixth try for the Scots, converted by substitute Charlie Savala, before Jacopo Trulla had the last word for the home side with their third try. Geronimo Prisciantelli converted two of his team’s three tries to lend some respectability to the final score, but it was a solid victory for Edinburgh all the same.

“It was great that Wes got his first game for the club,” Blair said of summer signing Goosen. “He has been pretty frustrated with the start of his season with his niggling injuries, but I thought he did some really positive stuff. Nick Auterac played his first game as well and I’m delighted those guys have joined the club.”

Loosehead prop Auterac is another who has had to wait patiently for his chance. He and a few others will have another opportunity to prove their worth a week today, when Edinburgh again have the depth of their squad tested by an away game, this time in Cardiff.

Scorers – 

Zebre: Tries: Fusco, Rizzoli, Trulla. Cons: Prisciantelli 2.
Edinburgh: Tries: McBurney 2, Hodgson, Goosen, Immelman, Currie. Cons: Boffelli 3, Savala.

Scoring sequence (Zebre first): 0-5, 0-7, 0-12, 0-17, 0-19, 0-24, 0-26 half-time, 0-31, 5-31, 10-31, 12-31, 12-36, 12-38, 17-38, 19-38.

Yellow card: Edinburgh: Boffelli 40.

Red card: Zebre: Pelser 22. 

Teams – 

Zebre: L Pani (R Kriel 49); P Bruno, T Boni (C Cook 64), D Mazza, J Trulla; T Eden (G Prisciantelli 59), A Fusco (L Pani 80); J Pitinari (L Rizzoli 53), M Manfredi (G Ribaldi 58), I Neculai (M Hasa 55), D Sisi (captain, A Zambonin 64), L Krumov, L Andreani, M Pelser, T Fox-Matamua (G Venditti 62). 

Edinburgh: H Immelman; W Goosen, M Currie, C Dean, E Boffelli (D Hoyland 53); J van der Walt (C Savala 57), C Shiel; B Venter (N Auterac 52), A McBurney (P Harrison 62), L de Bruin (A Williams 52), J Hodgson, S Skinner, N Haining (P Phillips 67), L Crosbie (captain, B Muncaster 25-34, 54), V Mata. 

Referee: Craig Evans (Wales).

About Stuart Bathgate 1434 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.

13 Comments

  1. That Mike Blair, what an idiot, imagine picking Blair Kinghorn as his first choice fly half. He’ll get the sack soon, I shouldn’t wonder. What Edinburgh needs is a top class armchair coach like John or Charlie to lead us where we belong…….🤣🤣🤣 thanks for the laughs guys.

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  2. Pointless game. Just give everyone the 5 points when they play this pile of zebre dung. Bring back the Cheetahs.

  3. Just a shame that there are not more home bred Scottish players in the team.
    It is holding back the options for the national team

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    • More than a third of the squad at the weekend were Scottish born and bred, or were involved with Scottish Exiles and Scotland age grade teams. This at a time when ten players were off at the Scotland camp (though I acknowledge that a couple of those are residency rather than Scottish blood qualified). The five unavailable through injury came through the Scotland age groups, and some were home bred. Having high quality individuals from other countries is part of professional sport, and is a necessity if Scottish teams are going to have a chance to win games during the AI and 6N windows, and therefore be able to potentially be challenging for playoff places come the business end of the season.

      I also don’t see it as holding back options for the national team. If the home bred players were of a high enough quality they would be in the team ahead of the imports. Also, the academy type players will benefit from getting to train/play with high quality professionals during these windows.

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  4. Watched the game again..Ramblings

    VdW needs game time as he’s a very competent 10.can pass run and kick
    Currie had his best game for Edinburgh he was really good.
    IMO – Crosbie starts for Scotland, we need his hardness.
    Goosen looks a scorer of tries.
    Dean playing best rugby of his life.
    Haining makes the hard yards, annoys people and has nice hands

    • VdW has been very hard done by due to the Kinghorn experiment. Jaco is a very solid 10 and unlike Kinghorn he can kick – he got a couple of lovely kicks right into the corner in Saturday’s match. Kinghorn seldom makes much distance when kicking to touch.

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      • Correct Charlie, with BK (given his skillset/capabilities) its feast or famine – brilliant in space with time against weaker/tired teams or nothing against proper organised physical defences.
        VDW has a very good kicking game as a plan a / b.
        This Edinburgh allows front foot ball due to the excellence of its forwards

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  5. Would have taken that score at the start of the day as I feared this might be a bit of a banana skin. Edinburgh played really well in the first half but strangely became more disjointed as the game went on and Zebre came back into it. Zebre are a strange side – they seem to start of really poorly in all their games and give teams a huge head start before coming strong towards the end as they did today and that was with 14 men. Anyway good to give a lot of the 2nd stringers some game time and 5 good points in the bag.

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      • You do wonder – anyway I won’t take it to heart. PS – accidentally downvoted you when I was trying to reply – hit the wrong button.

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