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Edinburgh Rugby: 41 (20) Zebre: 10 (3)

Last Friday saw the Embra men show plenty of ambition, width and no little forward muscle as they pummelled the Cardiff Blues at the Arms Park.   Their territorial dominance and the control they had in set piece and breakdown should have seen them safe and sound well before no-side.  It was a big improvement on what had gone before since the summer break, although they should not have needed Greig Laidlaw's late dropped goal to come away with the win.  But that, in itself, was a good sign.  The best sides are patient even when not firing on all cylinders.  The best sides tend to prevail in matches such as these. 

So the show is just about back on the road.  Tonight's visit of the Zebras gave the Gunners the chance to run up a bit of a score and play a couple of key performers back into a bit of form into the bargain. They duly notched a five try bonus point win that, at the time of writing, puts them second in the table behind three win Ulster.

It was a strange one, though, as they were rarely out of third gear at best despite being in the driving seat throughout. Although they were guilty of allowing the Italian visitors to dictate the pace of the game in the first period, they had still killed the contest at the break with a comforttable 20-3 lead.  They upped the pace in the third quarter to secure the try bonus before easing down, Usain Bolt-like, to jog through the finishing line in the fourth quarter.

The match saw the welcome return to the fray of Matt Scott, who had some fine breaks and enjoyed a decent enough first run of the season, as did Netani at No 8.  Once again, the pack were dominant in set piece, notching a second penalty try in as many weeks from a driving scrum over the enemy line. The visiting forwards must have winced as tonight's starting front row exited en masse shortly after the restart, only to be replaced by an equally strong, fresh trio with a point to prove, who duly secured the penalty try.  Tim Visser did not see as much of the ball as one would have liked, but he still managed a cheeky double, taking his try tally to a handy six in three matches so far.  Greig 'Give It A' Tonks continues to impress at full back, albeit it was good to see Tom 'Schooldays' Brown get a run in the second period.

Things are not quite clicking yet and not a few gilt-edged chances were chucked away once again.  But the pack, in particular, are looking solid and the half back combination is starting to gel.

The Gunners were on top early, with a Laidlaw penalty on four minutes.  The little general has clearly rediscovered his kicking trousers, hitting a perfect six from six this evening, many from wide out.  The early exchanges were a bit cagey, but Zebre were looking to move the ball too, which promised an entertaining match.

The first home try came on 21 minutes.  Off quick lineout ball, Embra set up a ruck in midfield.  Rees made a half break inside after seemingly choosing to go the wrong way.  But the Welsh international waltzed through tackles and looked like he might be able to go all the way himself, but instead passed to Sean 'Coxy' Cox, last week's try provider turning hitman to crash over, the try converted by Laidlaw.

Halangahu and Laidlaw traded penalties before Edinburgh goofed a couple of chances.  Finally, try number two came shortly before half-time.  The pack smashed a Zebre defensive scrum, taking the ball against the head.  After a couple of close in drives, the ball was whipped out quickly to Tonks, who put Visser over in the corner, Laidlaw hitting the difficult conversion.  20-3 half-time.  Although the Gunners could have done with a bit more tempo and territory, they had pretty much sewn things up already.

And the home side put the foot on the gas after the restart.  A thrilling break from Laidlaw, deep in his own half, saw the ball moved quickly into enemy territory.  Scott's arcing run made great ground but was stopped just short of the line.  The ball was recycled reasonably quickly then Glichrist offloaded to Ford for the hooker to crash through for the try on 42 minutes.

Heads up play from a quick lineout saw Lee Jones almost away on 53 minutes, but his run was stopped dead by a high tackle by Geldenhuys.  It was a classic off-balance second row's lunge at a tricky wee guy who'd nipped past him, but it was also a straightforward yellow.  Edinburgh kicked to touch then went after the weakened Zebre scrummage.  After the Italians had been penalised twice in succession, the Gunners resetting the scrum both times, it was third time lucky.  The power surged through, the home pack rumbled forward, Zebre took the scrum down deliberately and the Italian referee headed under the posts. 34-3 going into the final quarter; a cue for coach Bradley to empty the bench and give some guys a little game time.

As a result of the mass replacements, Edinburgh did lose a little momentum.  Sinoti wriggled over in the confusion on 69 minutes to give the league's bottom side some reward for their efforts.  Indeed, with the game long since won, they threw the ball around a bit and looked dangerous at times.

But it was Edinburgh who were to have the last laugh.  With Zebre pressing in the home 22, the ball went loose and Visser's massive fly hack saw the ball eventually come to a rest just short of the Zebre goal line.  The winger flew up the touchline in pursuit, easily outpacing the cover to pick up and dot down, Laidlaw's fourth and final conversion making the final score 41-10 Edinburgh.

The Gunners are on the road for the next two weeks, first a tough trip to the RDS to face Leinster next weekend, followed by a visit to Rodney Parade, a ground where the Newporters have often prevailed as a result of winning an arm wrestle in the forwards.  This season, the Embra men are much better equipped for trench warfare so a minimum return of five points from these two matches should be the target.

 INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT GEORGIA (#4): As well as being an academic chemist of some renown, composer Alexander Borodin, although born in St Petersburg, was half-Georgian.  Meanwhile, Ketevan "Katie" Melua is in fact Georgian-born.  Football fans will have fond memories of balding genius Temouri 'Big Temouri' Ketsbaia and Georgi Kinkladze.


Edinburgh: Laidlaw 4C 2P, Visser 2T, Cox 1T, Ford 1T Penalty

Zebre: Halangahu 1C 1P, Sinoti 1T



Edinburgh: Tonks, Jones, De Luca, Scott, T. Visser, Laidlaw, Rees, Yapp, Ford, Nel, Gilchrist, Cox, McInally, Rennie, Netani. Replacements: Brown for Tonks (63), Houston for De Luca (64), Black for Rees (62), Jacobsen for Yapp (47), Titterrell for Ford (47), Cross for Nel (47), Parker for Cox (62), Basilaia for McInally (62).

Zebre: Tries: Sinoti. Cons: Halangahu. Pens: Halangahu. Zebre: Sinoti, Venditti, Pratichetti, Halangahu, Trevisan, Chiesa, Tebaldi, De Marchi, Festuccia, Leibson, Geldenhuys, Sole, Caffini, Bergamasco, van Schalkwyk. Replacements: Benettin for Pratichetti (74), Buso for Trevisan (46), Chillon for Tebaldi (46), Aguero for De Marchi (41), Manici for Festuccia (54), Redolfini for Leibson (41), Cazzola for Geldenhuys (65), Ferrarini for Caffini (41).

Referee: Vivarini (FIR)

Att: 3,541