Zebre score four second-half tries to stun Edinburgh in Parma
Edinburgh let slip a 13-0 first-half lead to slump to a 34-16 Guinness Pro14 defeat at the hands of Zebre in Parma.
The visitors, despite making ten changes to the side that thrashed Toulon in the Champions Cup last weekend, began well and looked in control following a converted Darcy Graham try and two penalties from Simon Hickey.
However, hopes of a third successive league victory started to slip away from Richard Cockerill’s men as Zebre scored 20 points in just 17 minutes either side of half-time at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.
Former Bath flanker Dave Sisi and Gabriele di Giulio both crossed for the hosts, with Carlo Canna adding 12 points with the boot as Zebre turned the match on its head to lead 20-16.
Italy internationalists Canna and Tommaso Castello added further tries in the last eight minutes to complete the home side’s comeback and consign Edinburgh to a fourth defeat in seven Pro14 games.
After a famous win over Toulon in the Heineken Cup last weekend, Richard Cockerill’s side fell tamely.
The speed with which his side capitulated in the second half will worry Cockerill. The match ended in a rout, with Zebre winning the second half by 31-3 and grabbing the bonus-point try with the clock in the red numbers.
Edinburgh played a starring role in their own downfall and several players won’t look forward to Monday’s video sesion. The visitors failed to make much hay when the sun shone in the first half and Edinburgh enjoyed 75 per cent of the ball.
But Edinburgh’s reluctance to drive the stake through Zebre’s heart when they had the whip hand came back to bite them. The Italians were a different side in the second half, dominating possession almost as much as Edinburgh did in the first. All four of the home team’s tries stemmed from Edinburgh errors.
If there was a turning point it came when Simon Hickey, normally so reliable with the boot, missed a sitter on 35 minutes only to see Carlo Canno kick Zebre’s opening three points just three minutes later. That penalty seemed to breath belief back into the Italians who scored 17 points in the third quarter.
Both defences dominated the first half.
The Italians appeared to target Ross Ford in particular because the veteran hooker was caught in possession well behind the gain line on at least three occasions. Edinburgh’s attack struggled to find a way around the Zebre blitz and the lack of midfield creativity continues to hinder this team.
Edinburgh’s front row looked good on paper and looked even better on the pitch, winning two penalties at the set scrum in the first half alone. Bill Mata and Luke Hamilton did much of the heavy lifting and their back row amigo Luke Crosbie proved a reliable source of possession at the sidelines.
It wasn’t really an evening for sparking back play but Darcy Graham looked lively, chasing Henry Pyrgos’ bombs.
Graham also scored Edinburgh’s only try after Chris Dean offloaded beautifully to send his winger over the white line.