Edinburgh 24-18 Zebre: Young Murrayfield side start Rainbow Cup with narrow win

Edinburgh’s Eroni Sau scored the opening try
Edinburgh (7) 24
Try: Sau, Crosbie, Currie. Con: Chamberlain 3. Pen: Chamberlain.
Zebre (13) 18
Try: Lovotti, Meyer. Pens: Canna 2. Con: Canna.

Edinburgh’s young, experimental side made a winning start to the new Rainbow Cup after a fine second-half comeback against Zebre at Murrayfield.

Despite Eroni Sau’s early try for the hosts, they found themselves 13-7 down at the break thanks to Andrea Lovotti’s reply and Carlo Canna’s boot.

But tries from Luke Crosbie and Matt Currie put Edinburgh in control as they produced more pace and intensity.

Zebre secured a losing bonus point with Johan Meyer’s last-minute try.

The Rainbow Cup was launched to provide competition after the Pro14 was cut short by Covid-19, but continued travel restrictions forced the tournament to be split into northern hemisphere and South African sections.

For their opener, Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill handed 19-year-old Ben Muncaster his debut at number eight and Currie, a year older, his first start at outside centre.

Second row Marshall Sykes was making his second start, while fellow 21-year-old Nathan Chamberlain was at fly-half.

Having gone behind to a Canna penalty, for going offside after only five minutes, Edinburgh responded confidently when Sau touched down in the corner from Blair Kinghorn’s swift pass.

Chamberlain’s conversion should have settled the home side, but Kinghorn’s high tackle on Canna gave the Zebre fly-half the chance to reduce the lead to a point.

Knocked back on their heels, Edinburgh were subjected to a sustained period of pressure that culminated in Lovotti powering over from behind the ruck, with Canna adding the two points.

From a side looking full of nerves, Edinburgh were transformed immediately after the break and, after Sau gathered from a successful line-out and charged through several challenges, Crosbie stretched over the try-line almost under the posts.

Chamberlain’s conversion edged Edinburgh in front, Sau was just short of the line in the corner again, but Matt Currie was soon grounding just beside the post and Chamberlain again added the conversion.

Instead of kicking for touch to chase for a try that would have led to a winning bonus point, Edinburgh took the three points through a Chamberlain penalty and paid for that as Zebre raced up the other end to score through Meyer as the game went into overtime.

Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill: “It was a decent performance. I thought the young guys stood up well.

“Zebre came to play, they took their goals and we were under pressure for large parts of that first half, but we managed to stay in the game and I thought we controlled that second half pretty much from start to finish.”

Edinburgh: Kinghorn, Hoyland, Currie, Taylor, Sau, Chamberlain, Shiel, Venter, Willemse, Atalifo, Sykes, Hodgson, Kuvavula, Crosbie, Munkaster.

Replacements: Harrison, Shoeman, Nel, Mata, Boyle, Frostwick, Blain, Dean.

Zebre: Biondelli, Bruno, Mori, Lucchin, Di Guillio, Canna, Violi, Giammarioli, Mayer, Leavasa, Nagle, Sisi, Bello, Cecilliani, Lovotti.

Replacements: Ribaldi, Rimpelli, Tarus, Krumov, Licata, Casilio, Rizzi, Elliot, Bradley.

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