Edinburgh Rugby force supercomputer reboot as Sean Everitt's men achieve rare feat and survive almighty stramash

URC play-off hopes boosted by big win over Italians at the Hive

Before this match against Zebre, the URC supercomputer calculated that Edinburgh had a 68 per cent chance of qualifying for the play-offs.

Six tries and 40 points later and you can only imagine that the probability has increased by several percentage points but it never felt straightforward for the home side against opponents who have not won a league game outside Italy since 2019.

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The 40-14 victory has lifted Edinburgh from ninth to sixth place and although their closest rivals are in action on Saturday, the hope is that one or two will stumble as Sean Everitt’s team look to finish in the all-important top eight. Their cause against Zebre was helped by a rare bonus point – only their fourth of the season – as they notched their 11th win in 16 URC games. Ewan Ashman, with a brace of first-half tries, was a deserved winner of player of the match but there were also big performances from Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Watson on a night when the home side had to dig deep, particularly during the second half.

Edinburgh’s Javan Sebastian scores a second-half try during the win over Zebre.Edinburgh’s Javan Sebastian scores a second-half try during the win over Zebre.
Edinburgh’s Javan Sebastian scores a second-half try during the win over Zebre.

Nel also scored a first-half try and there was one each for replacements Chris Dean, Ben Vellacott and Javan Sebastian after the interval as the bench made a telling contribution. “Happy with the five points, frustrating second half,” was Everitt’s verdict. “Credit to Zebre, they’ve given a hard time to every opposition that they’ve played against, so we knew we were going to be in a tussle. I’m just happy that the guys showed the composure in the last 20 to pull it through comfortably.” Everitt knows tougher tests lie ahead, with the final two rounds of the regular season pitting Edinburgh against Munster at home and Benetton away.

Zebre had the better of the opening exchanges and Edinburgh had to wait 16 minutes for the breakthrough. A huge lineout drive took them deep into their opponents’ 22 and from the resultant penalty, Ben Healy kicked to the corner. The home side used the driving maul once more and Ashman was able to twist over for the opening try.

Healy was off target with the conversion and any hope that the score would settle Edinburgh was quickly quashed as Zebre hit back with an extraordinary try of their own. Geronimo Prisciantelli was 10 metres inside his own half when he fielded an Edinburgh punt and set off on his travels. The home defence parted like the Red Sea and the full-back was able to run in virtually unopposed. A suggestion that Grant Gilchrist had been blocked by Zebre prop Juan Pitinari was dismissed after a TMO check and Thomas Dominguez’s conversion edged Zebre ahead.

The crowd were starting to get restless but Edinburgh stuck to their processes and scored their second try in much the same way they got their first: a lineout drive, finished off by Ashman. Healy was spot on this time to make it 12-7 to the home side.

Chris Dean was also on target for Edinburgh.Chris Dean was also on target for Edinburgh.
Chris Dean was also on target for Edinburgh.

Edinburgh had some momentum and made it two tries in six minutes when Nel forced his way over from close range after sustained pressure on the Zebre line. Healy added the extras and Everitt’s side went in at the turn 19-7 ahead.

Hopes of a quick bonus-point try early in the second half never materialised for Edinburgh as the game became rather stodgy. Everitt tried to inject a bit more heft by changing his front row and also bringing on Marshall Sykes at lock but it was the Zebre subs who had more of an impact, initially at least. Gonzalo Garcia, their replacement scrum-half, added some zip as the Italians countered effectively. They were camped on the Edinburgh line but couldn’t find a way through until they moved it wide to Jacopo Trulla who had the freedom of the Hive to score. Giovanni Montemauri, the Zebre fly-half, converted to bring the Parma side back to within five points and things were starting to become uncomfortable for the home side.

Dean has seen it all in his decade’s service with the club and didn’t panic when given the opportunity from the bench. Vellacott, on for Ali Price, went down the blindside and Healy did exceptionally well to pop the ball up for Dean to score. There followed an almighty stramash, with Ritchie looking particularly incensed after Healy had been barged into the advertising hoardings. It took a long time to placate the combatants but when the dust had settled Edinburgh had a 26-14 lead and a bonus point in the bag.

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The match was settled by two late tries. The first came from a piece of opportunism from Vellacott who was initially tackled but released the ball then quickly regathered and raced through for Edinburgh’s fifth try. Cammy Scott, on for Healy at 10, knocked over the conversion. Javan Sebastian then bagged the sixth, taking a pass off the lineout maul to score. Scott again converted.

Scorers – Edinburgh: Tries: Ashman 2, Nel, Dean, Vellacott, Sebastian. Cons: Healy 3, Scott 2. Zebre: Tries: Prisciantelli, Trulla. Cons: Dominguez, Montemauri.

Edinburgh: W Goosen; M Currie, M Bennett (C Dean 59), J Lang, D van der Merwe; B Healy (C Scott 76), A Price (B Vellacott 59); P Schoeman (B Venter 55), E Ashman (D Cherry 55), WP Nel (J Sebastian 55), S Skinner (M Sykes 55), G Gilchrist, J Ritchie, H Watson (L Crosbie 66), V Mata.

Zebre Parma: G Prisciantelli; J Trulla, F Paea (L Pani 67), E Lucchin, S Gesi; G Montemauri (D Mazza 67), T Dominguez (Gonzalo Garcia 55); M Hasa (S Taddei 57), G Ribaldi (T Di Bartolomeo 69), J Pitinari (R Genovese 55), M Canali (D Sisi 49), A Zambonin, G Ferrari, T Fox-Matamua (B Stavile 49), G Licata.

Referee: Ben Breakspear (WRU)

Attendance: 6,792.

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