ANYONE tuning into this match hoping to witness a titanic clash to start this Rainbow Cup campaign was always likely to be disappointed.

If we accept this game for what it was, a glorified training-match between two struggling sides, played in an empty stadium in a meaningless tournament, then it was a fairly pleasing exercise for Richard Cockerill’s team, with some valuable game minutes picked up by a raft of emerging players, all of whom emerged with credit against their name.

Luke Crosbie, captaining the side for the first time, led by example from openside flanker, capped with the man-of-the-match award. He did not, however, get round to the “captain’s challenge”. In fact, none of the law variations which are being trialled in this competition were witnessed here.

Meanwhile, outside centre Matt Currie, making his first start, capped an accomplished performance with a well-taken try.

Cockerill, will, however, be frustrated that his side could not convert a dominant second-half performance into a four-try bonus point to go with their comfortable win. He will also be concerned about the injury picked up by George Taylor midway through the second half.

Carlo Canna gave Zebre an early lead with an off-side penalty. Edinburgh responded with a well-taken Eroni Sau try after some slick handling, which was converted from the touchline by Nathan Chamberlain but that was about as good as it got for the home side.

A high tackle by Blair Kinghorn on the marauding Canna allowed the Italian stand-off to narrow the gap to a single point, and when some more home indiscipline provided Zebre with a line-out platform five yards from their opponents’ line, the visiting pack rolled up their sleeves and rumbled their way into range for loose-head prop Renato Giammarioli to burrow over.

That made it 7-13 lead at the end of an uninspiring first half. Teenage debutant Ben Muncaster at No.8 had a couple of promising carries, as did 20-year-old Currie, who was making his first start at outside centre, and the scrum was on top, but generally there was not too much to get excited about from an Edinburgh perspective.

Sau lit up the start of the second half with a bustling break up the middle of the park off clean line-out ball from Crosbie, and the momentum was carried on by Jamie Hodgson, before Crosbie reappeared on the scene to stretch over the line. Nathan Chamberlain had no problem adding the extras from right in front of the posts.

For a short while, it looked like this was the start of a momentum shift in the home team’s favour, with Crosbie following up his try-scoring exploits by earning an excellent penalty on the deck, but some scrappy mistakes meant Edinburgh still could not quite grab this game by the scruff of the neck.

Kinghorn was bundled into touch in the right corner, but then Mesu Kunavula was penalised for collapsing the maul and Zebre were able to clear their lines. Sau was then squeezed out on the opposite corner after an excellent miss-pass from Chamberlain, and the away team once again cleared downfield.

Then, finally, the dam broke, when some powerful driving play followed by an excellently-timed pass from Chris Dean sent Currie – hitting an excellent line like a runaway train – under the posts.

A smart pass inside from Currie sent Damien Hoyland into acres of space, and the try was on if the winger had looked for the return pass, but he cut back infield and was swallowed up. A few seconds later, Currie did exceptionally well to get back and clear the danger after Zebre had hoofed a loose ball downfield. It was frantic stuff.

With three minutes left on the clock, and with an eight-point lead, Edinburgh strangely opted to go for the sticks with a penalty on the 22. Chamberlain bisected the posts – cementing the win – but it sucked up valuable game-time which surely would have been better deployed chasing the four-try bonus-point.

Zebre had the last say, with Pierre Bruno breaking clear, and Nicolo Casilio the link man who sent Massimo Ceciliani over.

Scorers, Edinburgh - Tries: Sau, Crosbie, Currie. Cons: Chamberlain 3.

Zebre - Tries: Giammarioli, Ceciliani. Con: Canna. Pen: Canna 2.

Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; D Hoyland (J Blain, 69), M Currie, G Taylor (C Dean 55), E Sau; N Chamberlain, C Shiel (R Frostwick 76); B Venter (P Schoeman 51), M Willemse (P Harrison 51), L Atalifo (W Nel 51), M Sykes, J Hodgson, M Kunavula (C Boyle 57), L Crosbie, B Muncaster (V Mata 61).

Zebre: M Biondelli (A Rizzi 64); P Bruno, F Mori, E Lucchin, G Di Giulio (J Elliott 69); C Canna, M Violi (N Casilio 56); R Giammarioli (D Rimpelli 54), J Meyer (G Ribaldi 62), P Junior Leavasa (A Tarus 62), I Nagle, D Sisi (L Krumov 69), E Bello (G Licata 60), M Ceciliani, A Lovotti.