Fourteen-man Cardiff see off Zebre
MATCH REPORT: An opportunist try from Josh Adams and a heroic defensive effort from Cardiff Blues ensured they began the new season with a 16-6 victory at Zebre despite playing the second half with 14 men.
Wales international Adams demonstrated his predatory prowess to pounce on a Jarrod Evans kick to score the only try of the contest in the first half at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.
Evans also kicked eight points and Jason Tovey added a late penalty to see the visitors over the winning line after Josh Turnbull was sent off soon after the restart, forcing the Blues to play with a man down for most of the half.
But while Carlo Canna converted a couple of penalties, the Italians were unable to find a way through the Blues defence in front of 1,000 supporters as the visitors held on to start the 2020/21 season in style.
Zebre showed plenty of ambition in the opening moments but their early promise was dealt a damaging blow on nine minutes when Federico Mori was shown yellow.
The teenage winger’s challenge on Blues fullback Matthew Morgan proved costly, with Evans stepping up to kick the first points of the new PRO14 season.
Canna spurned an opportunity to level the scores up on 17 minutes, slicing a penalty attempt wide, but the flyhalf made amends five minutes later after another Blues indiscretion.
But a moment of magic swung the momentum in the visitors’ favour just before the half hour mark, with Adams pouncing on a high kick from Evans at speed and racing over the whitewash.
The try was Adams’ eighth in nine outings for the Blues and after Evans added the extras, John Mulvihill’s men extended their lead to seven points going into the half-time interval.
However, the scriptwriters were not done yet and a red card for Blues No.8 Turnbull after the restart for a high tackle on Maxime Mbanda gave encouragement to the Italians.
From the red card offence, Canna landed a second penalty to close the gap to four to pile more pressure on the Blues, who responded by almost scoring their second try of the game.
Rey Lee Lo dotted down in the corner following Morgan’s kick only for the score to be ruled out for a knock-on in the build up by Hallam Amos.
The 14-men did restore their seven-point advantage just before the hour, though, with Evans adding another penalty after Adams snapped up loose ball and drew a Zebre infringement.
Blues continued to keep hold of the ball as much as possible in the closing quarter and were rewarded for their effort when Tovey – on in place of Evans – kicked a third penalty with ten minutes to go.
And despite Zebre’s best efforts, they could not find a way to break the Blues down as the visitors kicked off the new campaign with a hard-fought victory.
Pens: Canna 2
For Cardiff Blues:
Pens: Evans 2, Tovey
Zebre: 15 Junior Laloifi, 14 Federico Mori, 13 Giulio Bisegni (captain), 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Jimmy Tuivaiti, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Maxime Mbandà, 5 Leonard Krumov, 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Daniele Rimpelli.
Replacements: 16 Massimo Ceciliani, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Giosuè Zilocchi, 19 Cristian Stoian, 20 Lorenzo Masselli, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani , 22 Antonio Rizzi, 23 Jacopo Trulla.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Josh Adams, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Josh Turnbull, 7 James Botham, 6 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 5 Cory Hill (captain), 4 Seb Davies, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Liam Belcher, 1 Corey Domachowski.
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Rhys Carré, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Ben Murphy, 20 Olly Robinson, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Jason Tovey, 23 Garyn Smith.
Referee: George Clancy
Assistant referees: Federico Vedovelli, Riccardo Angelucci
TMO: Stefano Penne