THEY got the bonus point win they expected – and needed – out of this match, but it really wasn’t the sort of performance we have come to expect from Edinburgh at the Dam Health Stadium.  

It took a penalty from Jaco van der Walt with just three minutes to play to keep their undefeated record at home this season alive, and they can count themselves very lucky that it didn’t end in a draw against bottom of the table Zebre, which would have been a major blow to their chances of finishing in the top four in the United Rugby Championship (which they need for a home draw in the play-offs). 

“There was perhaps an air of over confidence during the week coming into this game,” conceded head coach Mike Blair. “Eyes were maybe on the Ulster and Glasgow games coming up.  

“We were off it today in terms of our speed to contact and it was not great but it could be a lot worse. We still walk away with a bonus point victory and we are in the top eight and still have the potential to go top four so all is not lost – but we have to get better.” 

Edinburgh got off to a flyer when Blair Kinghorn prodded an innocuous looking kick past Zebre’s first line of defence and caught their backfield sleeping, with Mark Bennett racing through to claim the opening try with just 46 seconds played. 

A commanding start by Edinburgh and they continued to dominate for the next 10 minutes,  but then let Zebre right back into the game with some crazy indiscipline, with Freddie Owlsey coughing up a totally unnecessary penalty by taking out an opponent well away from the ball, soon followed by Glen Young conceding a penalty try for a neck high tackle on Simone Gesi. The second-row was lucky that it was a yellow and not a red card brandished by referee Frank Murphy.  

With a man missing, Edinburgh continued to flounder, surrendering 50 yards off first phase scrum ball and then being penalised for collapsing the next scrum. When they managed to salvage possession from an overthrown line-out, the counter-attack fell apart when Owsley butchered the pass which should have exposed the overlap. 

It took them a while, but Zebre finally punished Edinburgh’s continual concession of possession and soft penalties, when Gabriele Venditti offloaded out of contact to send Junior Laloifi in for the try with five minutes of the first half remaining. Antonio Rizzi failed with the conversion. 

That was the spark which brought Edinburgh back to life, and they recaptured the lead just before the break when Henry Pyrgos made ground from the base of a scrum 10 yards from the Zebre line then offloaded from the deck to set-up the try for Cammy Hutchison  

However, the home ream slipped back into their poor habits of the first half when they coughed up an easy try within two minutes of the restart with Gesi handing off Hamish Watson and Mesu Kunavula then rounding van der Walt to score a try out of nothing. 

And it got worse for the hosts when Marshall Sykes was red-carded after his shoulder made contact with Danilo Fischetti’s head during a ruck clear out. 

Zebre then gifted Edinburgh the bonus-point try when replacement scrum-half Chris Cook threw a loose pass which was picked up by Bennett, who initially did well to outfox opposite number Erich Conje on his way to the line but then almost blew it when he was a bit too relaxed touching down one-handed and almost had it knocked from his grasp. 

But the visitors wouldn’t like down and they tied it with five minutes to go when David Sisi burrowed over between the posts and Tom O Malley converted, before van der Walt stepped up to kick the decisive points 

Teams – 

Edinburgh: J van der Walt; R Moyano (B Vellacott 79), M Bennett (C Hutchison 70), C Hutchison (J Lang 60), F Owsley (M Currie 40); B Kinghorn, H Pyrgos; P Schoeman (H Courtney 68), D Cherry (A McBurney 68), L Atalifo (A Williams, 40), M Sykes, G Young, B Muncaster, H Watson (C Boyle 61§), M Kunavula (J Hodgson 47). 

Zebre: J Laloifi (L Pani 64); J Trulla, E Cronjé, E Lucchin, S Gesi; A Rizzi (T O’Malley 64), A Fusco (C Cook, 54); D Fischetti (P Buonfiglio 44-52, 65), L Bigi, I Neculai (E Bello 48), G Venditti (D Sisi 48), A Zambonin, L Mitchell (G Ribaldi 65), M Mbandà (L Andreani 50-63), T Fox-Matamua.  

Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland) 

Scorers – 

Edinburgh: Tries: Bennett 2, Hutchison, Schoeman; Con: van der Walt 3; Pen: van der Walt. 

Zebre: Tries: Penalty Try, Laloifi, Gesi, Sisi; Con: Rizzi, O'Malley. 

Scoring sequence (Edinburgh first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-7; 7-12; 12-12; 14-12; 14-17; 14-19; 19-19; 21-19; 26-19l; 26-24; 26-26; 29-26.