Edinburgh got the bonus-point win they needed to maintain their push for a top-six finish last night but left it to the last move of the match to seal the deal against second-bottom Zebre.
In the end, two tries by Damien Hoyland and a match-turning contribution off the bench by international scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, who produced three assists and a try of his own, got the job done. For all the diplomatic talk about making sure of the win first, it was clear to everyone, with trips to Leinster and Munster to follow, that a try bonus point was imperative. That was something that Edinburgh had only achieved once this season and any hopes that the home side might tear up the script and run riot against the Italian strugglers was soon put to bed in a frustrating opening period which started badly when skipper Mike Coman’s comeback and 50th appearance for the club lasted only six minutes when he was forced off injured and replaced by young Magnus Bradbury.
New boy Jason Tovey did get Edinburgh off the mark with a penalty seven minutes later and a bright phase saw Mike Allen crash over for what seemed to be the opening try. However, the TV screens soon showed that the offload by his inside centre Phil Burleigh was clearly forward.
Edinburgh spurned a couple of shots at goal as they searched for the first strike that may open the floodgates against a side that had failed to score a single point in their past two outings.
Their bulky stand-off Kelly Haimona narrowly missed the chance to break that duck with a penalty effort but they looked to have gone even better and snatched a half-time lead when hooker Oliviero Fabiani scurried in at the left-hand corner, only for Edinburgh’s blushes to be saved by the TMO when a blatant obstruction by second row and skipper Quintin Geldenhuys saw the try denied.
At the start of the second half, McInally replaced Ross Ford and assumed the captaincy his fellow hooker had inherited from Coman and eight minutes later scrum-half Hidalgo-Clyne was introduced as Edinburgh desperately tried to inject some spark into proceedings.
A ruck offence 38 metres from the posts gave the visitors the first scoring opportunity but Haimona was again wayward. Then in the 52nd minute, finally, Edinburgh made the breakthrough and it was Hidalgo-Clyne who did the damage as his clever kick through was chased by wing Hoyland, whose own deft boot allowed him to gather and touch down. Tovey added the conversion to make it 10-0. The Italians had shown admirable spirit but, understandably, that try knocked the fight out of them and Hoyland doubled his tally five minutes later. A lineout and drive to the line saw Edinburgh move left then right and the young wing injected the pace out wide to dive over.
Tovey’s touchline conversion kept the scoreboard ticking over and, after a bit of a lull, the home side got the third try as the clock approached the last ten minutes.
Hidalgo-Clyne profited from excellent work by Tovey and McInally to dart in at the left of the posts and the Welshman added the extras to open up a 24-point lead.
Zebre were in no mood to play patsies and found some reserves of doggedness to frustrate their hosts.
A great kick chase by Hoyland forced a penalty with three minutes left and a scrum ensued five metres out.
Another penalty followed and was quickly taken as the home pack pounded the opposition line.
They went again and, after the ball went wide left, substitute lock Toolis was the man on hand to take Hidalgo-Clyne’s feed and crash in at the corner to the delight and relief of the near 4,000 BT Murrayfield crowd.
EDINBURGH: Tries: Hoyland (2), Hidalgo-Clyne, A Toolis; Cons: Tovey (3). Pen : Tovey.
EDINBURGH: B Kinghorn; D Hoyland, M Allen, P Burleigh, T Brown; J Tovey, S Kennedy; A Dickinson, R Ford, W Nel, A Bresler, B Toolis, M Coman, H Watson, C du Preez. Substitutes used: S McInally, A Dell, J Andress, A Toolis, M Bradbury, S Hidalgo-Clyne, C Dean, W Helu.
ZEBRE: K van Zyl; U Beyers, T Boni, M Pratichetti, L Sarto; K Haimona, G Palazzanni; A Lovotti, O Fabiani, D Chistolini, Q Geldenhuys, M Bortolami, J Cook, F Ruzza, J Meyer. Substitutes used: B Postiglioni, G Roan, P Ceccarelli, G Koegelenberg, E Caffini, L Burgess, C Canna, G Bisegni.