Edinburgh suffer shock PRO12 defeat to Zebre at Murrayfield
Edinburgh suffered a shock 19-14 defeat to Guinness PRO12 strugglers Zebre at BT Murrayfield, bringing to an end a promising start to the tenure of acting coach Duncan Hodge who had led the side to three consecutive victories.
It was not pretty viewing for Hodge, who watched his men shake off the effects of an error-strewn first half to take the lead, only to allow the visitors to snatch the victory in the dying minutes.
A try by Giovanabattista Venditti and a string of kicks by stand off Carlo Canna did the damage against a home side that had tries from Ross Ford and Murray MCallum plus a conversion apiece by Blair Kinghorn and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne.
Any notion that the Scots would build on their European Challenge Cup win over Harlequins six days earlier was quickly dispelled when an early thrust by the visitors yielded a penalty for not releasing and Canna nailed the kick to open the scoring.
Edinburgh responded with a spell in the ascendancy and powerful surges by Viliame Mata and Damien Hoyland came close to breaching the Zebre defence. However, the Italians managed to hold firm. Edinburgh appeared to be assuming control but their momentum was halted briefly to allow treatment for Stuart McInally, who was replaced by Ford after taking a knock with 13 minutes gone.
The home side continued to play a slick game but their efforts repeatedly foundered on handling errors. And it was the league strugglers who were next on the scoreboard after 25 minutes when Canna was on target with his second close-range penalty of the night.
With 33 minutes on the clock, Edinburgh earned a penalty 20 metres out and in front of the posts. However, after opting to kick for touch rather than the posts, they failed to win the ensuing lineout and the chance was wasted.
Zebre had an opportunity to boost their points tally but Canna was well short of the target with a long-range penalty attempt. However, by the interval, he had edged the basement side further ahead with a drop goal in the final play of the half.
Edinburgh raced into action from the restart and a break by Burleigh was continued by Mata but the move came to nothing after Allan Dell knocked on just a couple of metres short of the whitewash.
Then, eight minutes into the second period, Zebre's first incursion of the half yielded a penalty which Canna banged over to take the gap into double figures. However, the hosts had something of a let-off when he tugged his next effort left of the uprights.
And after threatening for much of the half, Edinburgh finally opened their account after 61 minutes. Kinghorn despatched a penalty into touch and the hosts won the lineout before Ford peeled off after a powerful drive and plunged over in the corner. Kinghorn's conversion cut the deficit to five points.
That breakthrough sparked a spell of Edinburgh pressure and another assault on the Zebre line paid off when a further drive by the pack ended with McCallum hammering his way over. Replacement scrum half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne added the extra two points to nudge the hosts into the lead for the first time.
But - just as the tide appeared to have turned in Edinburgh's favour - Zebre struck with a shock score. Hoyland sprinted out of the line in an attempt to intercept and that impetuosity allowed Venditti the space to take a pass and race round behind the posts to leave Canna a simple conversion that sealed a first win of the campaign for the Italians.