Edinburgh battled to a 26-10 victory at Zebre in the absence of head coach Richard Cockerill and full-back Blair Kinghorn. The duo, along with a team physiotherapist, were forced to stay in Scotland following a delay in obtaining the results of their coronavirus tests, although all three were later found to be negative.
The Scottish club put that distraction to one side to earn a hard-fought victory in Parma, despite having WP Nel sin-binned and George Taylor red-carded late on. Mark Bennett put the visitors in control with a try late in the first half, while Jaco Van der Walt contributed 16 points with the boot.
Mick Kearney crossed for Zebre’s only touch down as the hosts pulled level early in the second period, but Edinburgh survived twice being reduced to 14 men and Jamie Farndale added another try at the death.
It was the visitors who applied the early pressure and Van der Walt, who along with Kinghorn signed fresh terms with Edinburgh this week, got them on the board with a fifth-minute penalty.
Carlo Canna squandered a relatively straightforward opportunity to bring the hosts level shortly after the midway point of the half, pulling wide of the left-hand upright from the tee, but atoned for that error by splitting the posts two minutes later.
Mark Bennett scores the opening try of the match as Edinburgh extend their lead over Zebre ?
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) January 23, 2021
An off-the-ball block from Pierre Schoeman on Renato Giammarioli ended the Italian No8’s involvement but earned the Edinburgh prop no further punishment before the visitors opened up a 10-3 half-time lead. Bennett sent a kick downfield from his own 22-metre line, with Farndale winning the race to pounce on the ball and pop it back up for Bennett to run for the whitewash. Van der Walt made no mistake with the conversion.
Zebre wasted no time in restoring parity after the break, with Kearney being driven over the line three minutes into the second period and Canna adding the extras. Van der Walt opened up the Edinburgh lead once more with two penalties in quick succession, but they were left breathing a sigh of relief when a Zebre maul powered its way over the line only for the ball to be held up.
They did not come away from that period of pressure completely unscathed, with Nel sent to the sin bin after an offside offence. Edinburgh had to defend doggedly to preserve their lead a man light and they were dealt another setback when Taylor was sent off for a high tackle almost as Nel’s time in the bin was up.
The visitors weathered the storm, however, and denied Zebre a bonus point as Van der Walt added another penalty and converted Farndale’s late interception try.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 23, 2021
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