Cockerill Pleased with Edinburgh ‘First Class’ Start to PRO14 Season

It was a lively try scoring performance from Edinburgh as they ran in seven tries overall – six converted, and four in the first half alone – against Italian visitors Zebre in their opening PRO14 regular season game last night at BT Murrayfield.

Richard Cockerill was happy with his side’s opening fixture performance. (Photo: Edinburgh Rugby twitter)

Speaking after the game about rating his team’s performance, Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill said: “It’s a good start for us. With all respect to Zebre, you’d expect to get a result at home, for sure. But I thought the way we played, and the way we put them away was good. My first two years here, these types of games have been very much an arm wrestle.

“The way we’ve trained in pre-season, and the way we’ve tried to play, the execution and the attitude from the boys tonight was first class.

“And it was still a bit clunky at times, you don’t want to let teams back into games or give soft points away, and we did on a couple of occasions. But overall, it was a really good start for us. Notwithstanding that we know there’s tougher days to come. But from today’s performance I’m pleased, and very happy with how they played.”

Francois Brummer took the kick off for Zebre, but it was Edinburgh who took the first penalty for a Zebre infringement at the rolling maul, and from that moment on it was an all Edinburgh attack for the first five minutes.

The ever-reliable club favourite Fraser McKenzie was the first to cross the whitewash for the home side as he emerged from the bottom of a pile of forwards to be named the scorer from an Edinburgh driving maul. Good to know the speciality plays won’t be going anyway – after all, they do say, if it’s not broke don’t fix it.

Zebre look for some dominance following the restart as they encroached on the Edinburgh 22, but they had to settle for the three points of a penalty – awarded for Edinburgh being offside. And with Francois Brummer stepping up to take the kick, just right of the sticks, it was a no issue kick for the stand-off.

Following a period of continual pressure from the Edinburgh forwards, Nic Groom put in a grubber kick – which, granted, did take a slight detour when it rebounded off a Zebre leg – to Mark Bennett who nudged the ball to enable him to pick it up over the line and touch down under the sticks. The conversion was once again of no issue to Jaco Van Der Walt as he charted his second successful conversion of the night.

Zebre joined their hosts on the scoreboard when number eight Giovanni Licata charged down a Nic Groom box kick five metres from the Edinburgh line. The Italian forward chased it all the way to the dead ball area and, following a quick consultation between referee George Clancy and his TMO checking ‘try yes or no?’, he was awarded the score. Though Brummer was unable to add the extras.

Shortly following this, some quick hands play between Matt Scott and Nick Haining allowed the forward to feed winger Duhan Van Der Merwe, who appeared as if out of thin air charging up the far wing. He fed inside to his scrum half Groom, with the new club vice-captain having no issues going over for the score. Once again, Van Der Walt was able to convert the score as well.

As if three were not enough, Edinburgh went for a fourth score before the break. Pierre Schoeman utilised the quick offload option to Matt Scott in the line, with Scott then feeding centre partner Mark Bennett. The outside centre then surged down the wing with Nick Haining on his outside, but he wisely opts to return the favour and feed Scott who is coming up the inside of him.

With Van Der Walt’s conversion, the teams returned to the changing rooms with Edinburgh more than comfortably leading 31-8.

The teams emerged for the second half, and it was unrealistic to expect the exact same performance. Edinburgh lost some of their hunger from the first 40, though that’s not to say that stopped them from scoring – they put another three tries on the board before the full time whistle.

Scott was the first to touch down as he evaded three tackles to make it across the line having taken the pass from partner Bennett. Van Der Walt kicked the conversion, though this would be his last kick at goal before he was replaced by Simon Hickey.

Scott’s try and the last two were broken up by a score from Zebre as debuting replacement centre Federico Mori powered over, with seriously impressive pace, and watched on as Pierre Bruno added the extras to his score.

The Edinburgh replacements also made their presence known as scrum half Charlie Shiel took the pass at the back of a lineout from Luke Crosbie, and broke from the midfield, finishing his break by releasing Bennett to score his third try of the night. This time it was Simon Hickey that successfully converted the score.

And last, but by no means least, on 80 minutes played, as Edinburgh were still attacking the Zebre line, Hickey identified an opportunity in the far wide channels, putting in a beautifully curving chip kick to Jamie Farndale who received it perfectly, and easily jotted down. Though Hickey was unable to convert, the score still allowed the Edinburgh boys to close out the game with a more than respectable 50-15 win.

 

Teams:

Edinburgh: D Hoyland; J Farndale, M Bennett, M Scott, D van der Merwe; J van der Walt, N Groom; P Schoeman, D Cherry, P Ceccarelli, F McKenzie, M Douglas, L Carmichael, L Crosbie, N Haining. Subs: M Willemse, J Bhatti, M McCallum, M Kunavula, A Miller, C Shiel, S Hickey, G Taylor.

Zebre: C Walker; J Elliott, L Vaccari, E Lucchin, P Balekana; F Brummer, J Renton; D Fischetti, M Manfredi, A Tarus, M Kearney, I Nagle, I Bianchi, J Meyer, G Licata. Subs: M Ceciliani, D Rimpelli, G Zilocchi, G Biagi, A Tauyavuca, N Casilio, P Bruno, F Mori.

Referee: George Clancy.

Scorers:

Edinburgh: Tries: McKenzie, Bennett 3, Groom, Scott, Farndale. Cons: Van Der Walt 5, Hickey. Pen: Van Der Walt.

Zebre: Tries: Licata, Mori. Cons: Bruno. Pen: Brummer.

Scoring sequence (Edinburgh first): (0-0), (5-0), (7-0), (7-3), (12-3), (14-3), (14-8), (19-8), (21-8), (26-8), (28-8), (31-8) HT (36-8), (38-8), (38-13), (38-15), (43-15), (45-15), (50-15) FT.

Man of the Match: Mark Bennett.

Attendance: 4221.

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