EDINBURGH captain Grant Gilchrist is confident that his team’s 26-10 win over Zebre on Saturday has put them back in the hunt for a place in next season’s Champions Cup. The hard-fought win in Parma still leaves Gilchrist’s team fifth out of six in PRO14 Conference B, but they are now within touching distance of second-placed Cardiff in a division from which the top three are expected to qualify for next season’s premier European tournament.

“We said this was a must-win for us, so I'm really pleased with how we stuck in,” Gilchrist said after his team recorded just their fourth win in ten league outings. “It was gritty. In the last 20 minutes we went down to 14 and then 13, but we controlled the game and the result and that's really pleasing. 

“You've got to do that on the road. That’s a result and a performance that puts us back in the mix for Europe, which is the key goal for us this year.”

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READ MORE: Zebre 10 Edinburgh 26: Edinburgh earn key PRO14 win

The final score may suggest a solid victory for the visitors, but it was touch and go for a time after George Taylor was sent off for a dangerous tackle with WP Nel still in the sinbin for a team offence. However, from just 16-10 up at that point, Edinburgh finished strongly, with Jaco van der Walt scoring his fourth penalty and Jamie Farndale adding a late interception try.

Van der Walt, who converted Farndale’s score as he had done Mark Bennett’s first-half try, was named player of the match, although Pierre Schoeman and Bennett himself would arguably have been more deserving recipients of the award. Above all, however, this was a good all-round performance in which - apart from a lapse at the start of the second half that allowed Zebre to come from 10-3 down to 10-10 - Edinburgh played with far more solidity than they had shown in their defeat by Glasgow in their previous outing.

“It was a tough game set-piece-wise, and it was key that we controlled that last period when our set piece held up very well,” Gilchrist added. “It was just crucial that we bounced back from the disappointment of the previous week.”

Edinburgh also bounced back from something that might well have thrown them off their stride, the pre-match disruption when full-back Blair Kinghorn and head coach Richard Cockerill were unable to travel because of the late arrival of their negative Covid tests. In the event, though, the only downside of the weekend was the fact that, having rediscovered a pleasing consistency in both attack and defence, they now have to wait nearly three weeks for their next match, away to the Dragons. 

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READ MORE: Edinburgh coach Calum MacRae laments George Taylor tackle

With the Warriors facing a similar length of time before their next league game against as-yet-unidentified opponents, the two Scottish sides will meet in a hit-out next midweek. The primary aim of the training game will be to give some of the fringe members of both squads the chance for some much-needed match practice, though it could also prove a useful exercise ahead of the Calcutta Cup for those members of Gregor Townsend’s Scotland squad who are about to finish their recovery from injury.

Granted, it might equally well be decided that training with the national squad would be more useful than a bounce game against Glasgow for the likes of Edinburgh forwards Rory Sutherland and Jamie Ritchie should they be passed fit in time for the start of the Six Nations, but Gilchrist for one is convinced that, at least where his younger team-mates are concerned, the exercise will be a productive one. 

“I think it’s a great idea,” the lock forward added. “There are a lot of guys for whom no Super6 has had a big impact - they’ve been limited in what they can do. But these games will be good for the younger guys to get experience, the ones who’ve been training very well with us but who are desperate to get some game time: it’s a perfect opportunity for these guys to play. 

“We’ve got about 50 guys who train with us but only 23 get to play on the weekend. So these [bounce] games are going to be crucial. These guys are chomping at the bit to play, and now they’re going to get their opportunity.”