WHAT doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, was the philosophy being adopted by the relentlessly positive Mike Blair after watching his Edinburgh team scrape a narrow home win over United Rugby Championship whipping boys Zebre on Friday evening 

The 29-26 victory – with a bonus point – wasn’t secured until the 77th minute when Jaco van der Walt slotted a not-rolling-away penalty against the plucky Italians, who had lost all 13 of their previous games played in this URC campaign by an average of just under 25 points per match. 

A draw would have been a major blow to the Scottish side’s chances of finishing in the top four of the URC table, which will secure a home draw in the end of season play-offs. As it stands, Edinburgh sit sixth in the league with two rounds of matches in the regular season left to play, against Ulster at home next Saturday and currently fifth placed Glasgow Warriors on May 21st. 

The capital men also have a European Challenge Cup quarter-final clash against English giants Wasps coming up in two weekends’ time, and Blair explained that he will be focussing on the positives next week as he looks to inspire a dramatic improvement in performance. 

“We will be right up for the game next week. I believe it will be the first sell-out at the DAM Health and the crowd are going to really be behind us and we’re going to put a performance on the pitch that they’re going to be proud of,” promised Blair, speaking straight after the Zebre match. 

“We did score early tonight but I think we relaxed a bit after that. Our physicality around the breakdown, and in attack and in defence, was missing a little bit, and that has huge implications for how you’re trying to win the game. 

“It was disappointing, but it could have been worse. We got five points and we’ll come in on Monday and have a real focus on Ulster.” 

Blair added that he has learned from experience that giving players the hairdryer treatment is not necessarily the way to achieve the sort of reaction he is looking for next week. 

“They got the bollocking at half-time and that didn’t work [because Zebre scored and then Edinburgh conceded a red card within minutes of the restart],” he pointed out. “I want us to learn from the good game management we showed – what did we do well and how did we allow ourselves to win the game? 

“I don’t want to push too much on the negative side because that’s plain and obvious to see. The target was to get five points out of it. We made it really hard for ourselves, we played a lot of the game with 14 men, and we came out with the five points.”