In a game of ebb and flow, Edinburgh saw their 10-0 half-time lead wiped out early in the second period as Zebre belied their status as the URC’s whipping boys. Having got it back to 10-10, they withstood a period of Edinburgh pressure to move 17-10 ahead with 11 minutes remaining only for Connor Boyle and substitute hooker Paddy Harrison to bag late scores for Blair’s side.
“I’m proud. I genuinely believe that’s our best win of the season so far,” said the coach. “The position we put ourselves in, with a really stiff breeze when all the momentum was with Zebre, to come back into the game as we did after the results we’ve had in the past few weeks, is massive for the club.”
Edinburgh went into the game on the back of four consecutive URC defeats, including home and away losses to Glasgow Warriors. They faced Zebre with a side composed mainly of fringe players due to injuries and the need to rest Scotland forward quartet Jamie Ritchie, Grant Gilchrist, WP Nel and Pierre Schoeman. It looked as if things were unravelling for them despite first-half tries from Charlie Shiel and Jack Blain but Blair kept faith, as well as utilising his bench to good effect.
“Players with different experience came on and had an impact,” added the coach. “Paddy Harrison is still in our academy but was really gutsy and showed a huge amount of skill to nail his throws in the conditions. Bill Mata came on with the bit between his teeth and Ben Vellacott was excellent. I’m really pleased with the subs as they all did well.
“I actually felt confident that we would get back into the game. I genuinely have so much belief in this group of players. We just have to keep learning. We repeated some of the mistakes of the past few weeks, but I asked the players to show character and I believe they showed it in the way they came back to get the bonus-point win. It’s something we can really build on.”