Edinburgh lost the try count but coach Duncan Hodge was content to see his team register another win and edge one place higher in the Guinness Pro12 table after this victory.
Edinburgh’s backs scored two tries, one a breakaway from centre Chris Dean, and leaned heavily on the lopsided penalty count combined with the reliable boot of Duncan Weir, who kicked a total of 14 points on the day.
“We were very happy to come away with a win,” said a relieved Hodge after the game. “I don’t know when we last won here but it is a few years ago so it was good to come away with a result at last.
“Apart from the scoreline we were pretty happy with the first half. We did tactically as we had planned, played a good bit in their half, put a lot of phases together, had a good bit of ball.
“The only thing that let us down was a few knock-ons and some cheap turnovers, there were three of four in their half. Plus we conceded the first try far too easily, just a missed tackle from the only time they were in our half.
“There was a lot of good stuff in that first half and we had to build on that. It was not a glamorous game but we managed to get ahead on the scoreboard. We were disappointed to concede the last try but, overall, [we are] happy.”
Weir gave Edinburgh an early lead thanks to a 14th-minute penalty and the visitors dominated much of the first half, only to see the opening try of the afternoon fall to international centre Tommaso Boni thanks to some good approach work by Carlo Canna, the fly-half then adding the extras.
Ben Toolis was dominating the sidelines where Zebre were having all sorts of problems in finding the jumper. For their part Edinburgh were struggling to hold on to the ball in the contact zone and they made a few unforced errors such as edging offside when the ball was sent skywards by Weir, who narrowed the gap with his second penalty of the afternoon.
Still, the visitors’ full-back Blair Kinghorn needed to look sharp to prevent the live-wire Boni from grabbing a second touchdown.
When the try arrived it fell to Dean, who snapped up a loose pass and sprinted home. Weir’s successful conversion gave the visitors a 13-7 lead at the break.
Edinburgh continued to press in the second half and Will Helu grabbed the visitors’ second try after the Edinburgh winger was first to react to Kinghorn’s clever kick ahead.
Canna responded in kind for the hosts but his inability to convert his own try, combined with another two penalties from Weir, his third and fourth of the afternoon, gave Edinburgh what looked like a comfortable 24-12 lead inside the final ten minutes. But there was still time for a dramatic flourish to end the game.
Replacement scrum-half Nathan Fowles was carded and Zebre breakaway Dries van Schalkwyk took advantage of the missing man to score with the last play of the game, a try which rescued a losing bonus for the Italian side. It was Edinburgh’s first league win on the road this season.
“That is a big monkey off our back,” admitted Hodge. “Speaking to Ross Ford, he said he had never won at Zebre.
“I guess he has been here three or four times and now won, so it is something the guys have not done [until now], to do it is a huge positive.
“We had quite a lot of possession without looking massively threatening. That is partly down to their defence.
“We did not get as much quick ball as we would have liked, they managed to slow it down possibly. We would have liked to have another try and have a go at a bonus point in the last five minutes but that was not the case.”