Edinburgh Rugby toughed out a second success under their new interim coaching regime with a narrow win over Zebre at the Stadio XXV Aprile tonight (7-9).
The visitors made tough work of the match in difficult conditions but ultimately a trio of Greig Laidlaw penalties were enough to secure the win in a match where they were almost made to pay for their missed opportunities to cross the whitewash.
Both Laidlaw and Greig Tonks were held up over the line before Luciano Orquera’s late drop-goal rebounded off the cross bar.
Interim Edinburgh Rugby head coach, Stevie Scott, said: "We had enough opportunities to win that game comfortably tonight but a couple of silly, individual errors and poor decisions kept them in the game and kept the pressure on us but, let's be clear, I'm happy with the performance towards the end, we dug deep where poor discipline could have cost us the game.
"I think we had about 70-80% of the ball and dominated large parts of the set piece but the most pleasing thing was the way we worked to grind out the win." -- interim head coach Stevie Scott.
"We were unfortunate to have two tries held up where, on a fast, dry pitch I'd have backed us to score, and these small margins are what made the game close in the end but the overriding emotion is that we're happy to be leaving here with a win."
Buoyed by their victory over Ulster and bolstered by a quartet of returning Scotland internationalists, Edinburgh began brightly and took the lead after just three minutes - scrum-half Laidlaw notching his first penalty of the evening (0-3).
A scrappy period ensued with both sides seeming to make ground only for handling errors to creep in but, as the half wore on, Edinburgh’s territorial play kept them in the right areas of the park before Kiwi centre Ben Atiga broke 50 yards up field only to see his cute reverse pass collected and then spilled by number 8 Netani Talei.
However, despite their relative hold on the game, Zebre were first cross to the paint when number 8 Andries van Schalkwyk ran on to an inside ball from back-row Joshua Sole to force his way over under the posts.
Orquera added the extras to hand Zebre a 7-3 lead.
Francis then took a pot shot with a drop goal on 36 minutes - safe in the knowledge the penalty was coming for Edinburgh but, rather than go for the posts, the visitors went for the corner.
The try was not forthcoming but Edinburgh's pressure eventually told just a minute before the break.
Laidlaw took aim at the posts and made no mistake, ensuring his side trailed by just a point at the interval.
HALF-TIME: Zebre 7-6 Edinburgh Rugby
After the break, Edinburgh brought Hamish Watson on for Ross Rennie and soon found themselves back in the lead, with Laidlaw kicking penalty number three.
Edinburgh had the momentum and earned themselves a scrum five metres from the Zebre line, only to concede a penalty and let the hosts off the hook.
Laidlaw then had the chance to extend his side's lead on 53 minutes but he slipped at the kicking tee at the crucial moment and missed his first effort of the night.
Edinburgh came again however and almost scored their first try of the night when Piers Francis slipped through the line five metres out and offloaded to Greig Tonks, who was held up on the line.
It was then Laidlaw's turn to miss out on a five pointer.
He looked certain to score from the back of the scrum but, with the last defender to beat, he lost his footing in the thick mud.
Again Edinburgh were given the chance to give themselves some breathing space but Laidlaw was wayward from the tee with seven minutes remaining.
Zebre almost made them pay and came agonisingly close to snatching the lead with three minutes remaining, only for Laidlaw do just enough to put Orquera off his drop-goal attempt, which struck the crossbar.
FULL-TIME: Zebre (7) 7-9 (6) Edinburgh Rugby
|1||Andre De Marchi|
|8||Andri van Schalkwyk|
|19||Michael van Vuren|
|5||Neath Swansea Ospreys||22||14||7||1||62|
|11||Newport Gwent Dragons||22||6||16||0||28|
|12||Zebre Rugby *||22||0||22||0||7|
* A points deduction has been applied.