Bigi brace of tries sees off Benetton
PRO14 REPORT: A Luca Bigi brace helped Zebre begin 2021 in style as they saw off Italian rivals Benetton 24-15 in a hard-fought derby in Treviso.
Bigi’s tries came in the space of seven first-half minutes as Zebre took full advantage of Giovanni Pettinelli’s yellow card.
Benetton hit back after the break and crossed twice through Callum Braley and Monty Ioane but the boot of replacement Antionio Rizzi helped Zebre close out their second victory of the season.
Benetton remain winless this season after their second defeat in the last three Italian derbies.
Following an opening 15 minutes which saw both sides enjoy time on the attack without converting pressure into points, an early turning point came when Benetton flanker Pettinelli was sin-binned for a high tackle on Nicolo Casilio.
Zebre made their man advantage count almost instantly, kicking the resulting penalty to the corner before the forwards barged their way over from the rolling maul that followed.
Bigi was the man to provide the finishing touch and he was at it again seven minutes later as Zebre scored in identical fashion, the pack again proving too hot for Benetton to handle from another lineout in the corner.
Canna’s second conversion attempt succeeded where his first had failed to open up a 12-0 advantage, with all the points scored in Pettinelli’s absence.
The hosts improved when back to their full complement and earned themselves a penalty right in front of the posts on the half-hour mark.
Tommaso Allan kicked to the corner but Benetton’s attempts to force their way over with a maul of their own were halted by a stubborn Zebre defence.
Allan opted to take the three points when handed another penalty from bang in front shortly afterwards to put his side on the board, and soon it was Benetton with the man advantage as Renato Giammarioli saw yellow in the 36th minute.
The hosts had a chance to reduce the arrears further from an attacking lineout on the stroke of half time but fine work at the breakdown from Leonard Krumov won Zebre a penalty and saw the visitors reach the break 12-3 up.
The second half began as the first had ended, with Benetton on top, and this time the hosts were able to capitalise as scrum-half Callum Braley darted over.
Allan’s conversion cut the deficit to just two points but his opposite number Canna responded with his first penalty of the afternoon on 50 minutes.
Both sides changed their fly-halves just shy of the hour mark, with Paolo Garbisi replacing Allan and Antonio Rizzi coming on for Canna, and it was Rizzi who was first to add his name to the scoresheet courtesy of a penalty that took Zebre’s lead beyond a converted try.
Rizzi then had to be alert at the other end, making a try-saving intervention inside his own in-goal area after winning the race with Jayden Hayward as the pair battled to reach Ignacio Brex’s kick forward.
Benetton kept the pressure on and set up a grandstand finish when Hayward’s fine pass gave Ioane a free run to the left corner but Garbisi’s conversion slid wide, keeping the deficit at three points with eight minutes to play.
Zebre calmed any nerves by dominating the closing minutes, with Rizzi slotting over two late penalties to seal the deal.
Tries: Braley, Ioane
Tries: Bigi 2
Cons: Canna, Rizzi 3
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Luca Sperandio, 13 Ignacio Brex, 12 Tommaso Benvenuti, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Tommaso Allan (captain), 9 Callum Braley, 8 Marco Barbini, 7 Manuel Zuliani, 6 Giovanni Pettinelli, 5 Niccolò Cannone, 4 Marco Lazzaroni, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 1 Ivan Nemer.
Replacements: 16 Thomas Gallo, 17 Cherif Traoré, 18 Filippo Alongi, 19 Riccardo Favretto, 20 Sebastian Negri, 21 Alberto Sgarbi, 22 Luca Petrozzi, 23 Paolo Garbisi.
Zebre: 15 Junior Laloifi, 14 Pierre Bruno, 13 Federico Mori, 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Nicolò Casilio, 8 Renato Giammarioli, 7 Maxime Mbandà, 6 Jimmy Tuivaiti, 5 Leonard Krumov, 4 David Sisi (captain), 3 Giosuè Zilocchi, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Danilo Fischetti.
Replacements: 16 Marco Manfredi, 17 Daniele Rimpelli, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Mick Kearney, 20 Johan Meyer, 21 Joshua Renton, 22 Antonio Rizzi, 23 Michelangelo Biondelli.
Referee: Andrea Piardi (FIR, 10th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Marius Mitrea, Manuel Bottino (both FIR)
TMO: Stefano Roscini (FIR)