SEAN Cox scored a first try for Edinburgh Rugby on his 27th appearance as Italian newcomers Zebre were comfortably put to the sword 41-10 in the Rabo Direct Pro 12 League at Murrayfield.
The score contributed to the perfect start for Edinburgh who now move to second in the table pending tonight’s games and they went on to claim four more touchdowns for a second-try bonus point in the space of three home matches.
Even Cox’s maiden strike could not, however, upstage that man Tim Visser as the human try machine added his second and sixth of the season with the final act of a one-sided encounter by hacking ahead and winning a 70-metre dash in which he overhauled opposition stand off Alberto Chiesa.
Visser now has 43 overall in the league – three behind front-runner Tommy Bowe of Ulster.
Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley said: “We were very happy with the five championship points. The boys worked hard in the first half. Zebre did as we expected, defending well and making it difficult for us. We were patient and clinical when we had the opportunities. The same goes for the second half. We took a couple of chances but we lost our rhythm a little bit after the fourth try.”
To get the ball rolling in front of a crowd of 3541, strapping second row Cox appeared on the shoulder of scrum half Richie Rees to take a scoring pass 15 metres out in the 22nd minute and momentum helped carry him over the line.
In fact, the try had long been coming as Edinburgh appeared faster in thought and deed and even the Italians’ negative tactics, calculated to slow up possession in rucks, had little impact on the high-tempo home side.
Lifted by the boot of full back Greg Tonks, an inspired signing from Northampton over the summer, the Scots hit the front with an early penalty from Greig Laidlaw who converted Cox’s try and later slotted a further three-pointer to cancel out a similar effort from Daniel Halangahu.
Laidlaw was nearly on the try sheet, too, as in the lead-up to the interval he accepted a pass from Visser and burst into space. As the cover finally closed a long drifted pass to Lee Jones saw the winger squeezed out.
However, Edinburgh maintained pressure and after an attempted pushover try just failed the ball was spread wide for Visser to gallop over.
With Visser cutting in behind the posts, Laidlaw’s conversion was made easier.
Ahead 20-3 at the interval Edinburgh wasted no time increasing their lead when, after a neat break by Matt Scott, a change of direction found Ross Ford virtually unmarked for a simple try.
Laidlaw’s conversion was a formality and any chance of a comeback was extinguished when Zebre captain Quintin Geldenhuys was sin-binned for a crude high tackle on Lee Jones.
Pressing home their advantage Edinburgh earned a scrum on the Zebre line and deliberate infringement saw the Italian referee point to the posts for a penalty try.
By this stage thoughts were turning to something Edinburgh did not achieve in the entire 2011-12 season – a shut-out of the opposition in try terms.
Nobody could have done more to ensure this than substitute scrum half Alex Black with a thumping tackle on Test winger Gio Venditti.
But when Zebre gained a penalty in the opposite corner the ball was fed to full back Sinoti Sinoti who forced his way over, Halangahu converting.
Appropriately Edinburgh had the last word with Visser pouncing on a loose ball to put the icing on the cake. Edinburgh flanker Stuart McInally was named man of thematch.
Scorers: Edinburgh: Try: Cox, Visser (2), Ford, penalty try. Conversions: Laidlaw (5). Penalties: Laidlaw (2). Zebre: Try: Sinoti. Conversion: Halangahu. Penalty: Halangahu
Edinburgh: Tonks (Brown, 61), Jones, De Luca (Houston, 63), Scott, Visser, Laidlaw, captain, Rees (Black, 60), Yapp (Jacobsen, 47), Ford (Titterrell, 4), Nel (Cross, 47), Gilchrist, Cox (Parker, 61) McInally (Basilaia, 60) Talei, Rennie.
Subs: Titterrell, Jacobsen, Cross, Parker, Basilaia, Black, Houston, Brown.
Zebre: Sinoti, Venditti, Pratihetti (Benettin, 73), Halangahu, Treviaan (Buso, 45), Chiesa, Tebaldi, De Marchi (Aguero, 45), Festuccia (Manici, 53), Leibson (Redolfini, 40), Geldenhuys, captain, (Cazzola, 64), Sole, Caffini (Ferrarini, 40), Van Schalkwyk, Bergamasco. Subs: Manici, Aguero, Redolfini, Cazzola, Ferrarini, Chillon, Buso, Benettin.
Referee: G Vivarini (Italy).