While acknowledging that his players were again far from blameless Richard Cockerill launched another scathing attack on the standard of officiating in the Pro14 after his side narrowly avoided a fourth successive defeat at Myreside last night.

Pursuing what would have been their club record third successive victory Zebre deserved considerable credit for their expansive approach and they came within 12 minutes of subjecting to the embarrassment of a second successive home defeat at the hands of Italian opposition, however Cockerill felt they had been assisted by their compatriot Marius Mitrea, the match referee.

“I will have to watch it again, but it is hard to play any type of rugby when the game is poorly officiated,” he said. “We have had some really really bad calls in the last 4 weeks.This week there seemed to be no offside line, for the competition to have any credibility that has to be looked at because I have not seen anything like it in anything else that I have coached.”

Edinburgh had made something of an early statement of intent when, with the match scoreless, they turned down a brace of kickable penalties but opted not to push their luck at the third time of asking and, after a ruck infringement under Zebre’s posts, Jason Tovey took the easy opportunity to nudge his side in front.

There was no hesitation at the other end when Edinburgh committed a similar offence, but Carlo Canna offered a reminder that there is still no such thing as a formality in rugby as he duck hooked his effort wide from just left the of the posts.

Showing some of the attacking verve often seen in these parts when Michael Bradley, their head coach, was in charge of Edinburgh during their best ever European run five years ago, the competition’s perennial whipping boys were demonstrating the belief they had taken from victories on each of the previous two weekends, however and took the lead with a fine try. Tommaso Boni made the initial half break just inside the Edinburgh half and his pass out of a tackle found flanker Johan Meyer in sufficient space to generate such momentum that both Blair Kinghorn and Tom Brown bounced off attempted tackles as he powered over on the left for an unconverted try.

That was pretty much Kinghorn’s last involvement as he departed injured soon afterwards, but Brown took the chance to make amends with a fine carry from deep in his own half which got his side close to halfway. Once there they shifted it wide where hooker Stuart McInally offered a reminder of his youthful days as a strong running back-row forward, stepping out of a tackle before showing an impressive turn of pace to break clear then sustaining it to get to the line untouched from around 45 metres out. Duncan Weir had replaced Kinghorn and took over the kicking duties to extend the lead to 10-5, which they held to the interval.

While Zebre continued to try to move the ball wide at every opportunity in the early stages of the second period, its first truly explosive moment was produced by Dougie Fife after Weir found the winger in space on the right. He was at full tilt as he cut infield inside his own half and took play into the opposition 22 metre before the cover got to him. Edinburgh were unable to turn the opportunity into a try, but when Zebre killed the ball at a ruck under their posts Weir created a two score gap between the sides for the first time with 57 minutes gone.

That remained the case for only five minutes, Edinburgh looking to have control as they tried to work their way out of their 22 only for scrum-half Nathan Fowles’ attempted clearance to be charged down by opposite number Marcello Violi who was never going to be stopped at such close range once he then gathered the ball and he took over the goal-kicking duties to get his side within a point.

When Edinburgh then conceded another penalty in front of their posts Violi struck again to put his side ahead with 15 minutes remaining.

Alan Dell, the prop who had been given a taste of touring with the British & Irish Lions in the summer, was among those sent on to try to salvage the situation for the home side and a huge scrummage drive inside the Zebre 22 earned Edinburgh the penalty opportunity that let Weir reclaim the one point advantage that they managed to hold onto.

The closing stages were, however, interrupted by a worrying looking injury to James Johnstone who required lengthy treatment before being stretchered off.


Edinburgh: B Kinghorn (D Weir 23); D Fife, J Johnstone (P Burleigh 72), P Burleigh (R Fruean 53), T Brown; J Tovey, N Fowles; D Marfo (A Dell 58), S McInally, W Nel (S Berghan 47), B Toolis (A Bresler 57), G Gilchrist, M Bradbury, J Ritchie, C du Preez (L Crosbie 62).

Zebre: M Minozzi; M Bellini (C Gaffney 40), T Boni, T Castello, G Venditti; C Canna, M Violi; A Lovotti (A de Marchi 62), O Fabiani (L Luus 62), D Chistolini (R Tenga 47), D Sisi, G Biagi (L Krumow 52), G Licata, J Meyer, R Giammarioli (D Minnie 57).


Edinburgh: Try: McInally; Con: Weir; Pen: Tovey, Weir 2.

Zebre: Try: Meyer, Violi; Con: Violi; Pen: Violi.