Zebre secures back-to-back wins over Benetton
PRO14 REPORT: A thrilling see-saw second half saw Zebre hold off a Benetton fightback to secure back-to-back Italian derby wins as they prevailed 22-18 in Parma.
Zebre had not beaten their neighbours twice in the same season since the 2015/16 campaign but went into the half-time interval 8-6 up.
Two Paolo Garbisi penalties had given Benetton a narrow lead as the interval approached but Michelangelo Biondelli put Zebre in front at the break.
Another try from Maxime Mbanda extended the hosts advantage before Benetton hit back with scores from Gianmarco Lucchesi and Michele Lamaro.
But two penalties from Antonio Rizzi in the final ten minutes saved the day for Michael Bradley’s men as they claimed bragging rights once again.
The opening ten minutes was a scrappy affair as both sides struggled to find their rhythm before Benetton landed the opening points through a straightforward Garbisi penalty.
An injury to Simone Ferrari soon after halted any momentum the visitors gained from taking the lead, with Filippo Alongi called into action with only 15 minutes on the clock.
A spell of Zebre ball almost resulted in the first try, with the hosts winning their own lineout and going wide to Giovanni D’Onofrio who was denied in the corner by Jayden Hayward.
But they didn’t come away from Benetton’s 22 empty-handed as the play was brought back for a penalty, which Carlo Canna slotted with ease to level the scores at 25 minutes.
Zebre were soon back within attacking range after sloppy play from Benetton at the breakdown resulted in two penalties but the opportunity was lost when the ball was turned over.
It was the story of the half as Jimmy Tuivaiti secured the ball back for Zebre before Benetton returned the favour at the next ruck, with neither side able to hold on to the ball.
As half-time approached the game came alive, though, with Benetton first retaking the lead through another Garbisi penalty before Zebre snatched the advantage just before the break.
A series of penalties allowed the hosts to pile the pressure on Benetton and clever play from Canna, who delayed his offload perfectly, allowed Biondelli to cross the whitewash.
The conversion from Canna hit the upright to leave the score delicately poised at 8-6 to the hosts at the interval and Benetton almost hit back straight after the restart.
A kick chase down the flank was almost pounced on by Monty Ioane but the winger was unable to get control of the ball as the TMO ruled out Benetton’s hopes of their first try.
Benetton’s afternoon did not get much easier on 48 minutes when replacement Alongi was shown yellow, allowing Canna to extend Zebre’s lead to 11-6 from right in front of the posts.
Zebre punished Benetton again on 52 minutes when Mbanda crossed for his side’s second try following a good break from Guglielmo Palazzani, with Canna unable to add the extras.
A yellow card for Johan Meyer just before the hour gave Benetton hope of mounting a comeback and the visitors’ maul finally found its teeth shortly after as they got over the whitewash.
While the ball was held up, Benetton kept on coming and Toa Halafihi grabbed the ball from his scrum-half before offloading to Lucchesi who bashed his way over the tryline.
Garbisi was unable to add the extras but the momentum was Benetton and it was not long before they reclaimed the lead as captain Lamaro dotted down, with Garbisi converting.
But Zebre edged back in front through a Rizzi penalty on 72 minutes before the replacement fly-half added another five minutes later to secure victory.
Tries: Biondelli, Mbanda
Pens: Canna 2, Rizzi 2
Yellow Cards: Johan Meyer 59′
Tries: Luchesi, Lamarro
Yellow Cards: Felippo Alongi 48′
Zebre: 15 Michelangelo Biondelli, 14 Giovanni D’Onofrio, 13 Federico Mori, 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Nicolò Casilio, 8 Renato Giammarioli, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Jimmy Tuivaiti, 5 Mick Kearney, 4 David Sisi (captain), 3 Giosuè Zilocchi, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Danilo Fischetti.
Replacements: 16 Massimo Ceciliani, 17 Andrea Lovotti, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Samuele Ortis, 20 Maxime Mbandà, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Antonio Rizzi, 23 Jamie Elliott.
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Luca Sperandio, 13 Ignacio Brex, 12 Marco Zanon, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Michele Lamaro (captain), 7 Manuel Zuliani, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Riccardo Favretto, 4 Niccolò Cannone, 3 Simone Ferrari, 2 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 1 Cherif Traoré.
Replacements: 16 Tomas Baravalle, 17 Thomas Gallo, 18 Filippo Alongi, 19 Marco Lazzaroni, 20 Toa Halafihi, 21 Giovanni Pettinelli, 22 Luca Petrozzi, 23 Tommaso Allan.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR)
Assistant Referees: Federico Vedovelli, Riccardo Angelucci (both FIR)
TMO: Stefano Penne (FIR)
Source: Pro14 Rugby