Cassiem stars in crucial Scarlets win
PRO14 REPORT: Uzair Cassiem’s double inspired a crucial victory for Scarlets as the Welsh side kept their play-off qualification hopes alive with a brilliant performance against Zebre.
The South African drove over the line early on as Scarlets looked to lay down a mark following some early Zebre pressure.
The experienced Hadleigh Parkes then crossed thanks to a brilliant decoy run from Leigh Halfpenny before Johnny McNicholl finished Scarlets’ third try on the hour.
With less than ten minutes to go, Cassiem secured the all-important bonus point before Kieran Hardy and Ioan Nicholas embellished the score to keep Scarlets in the hunt for the Final Series.
In a must-win game for the Welsh side, it was the Conference A strugglers who started the better.
Finding gaps at will in the opening ten minutes, Zebre threatened but couldn’t get the crucial breakthrough – and were made to pay the price.
Scarlets’ powerful forward pack drove the opposition back in a scrum before Cassiem powered over in front of a relieved Parc y Scarlets.
Zebre dominated possession without much product until the half hour mark as the home side failed to capitalise on their early score.
Scarlets kept looking to Parkes at centre for inspiration – and the ploy eventually worked thanks to a precise Dan Jones pass and a dummy run from Leigh Halfpenny which allowed the Welsh international to score.
Edoardo Padovani almost changed the narrative completely as he intercepted a pass on the right wing before running the length of the field – but his attempted cross field kick was brilliantly blocked by Will Boyd.
But as the hour mark approached and the game started to become scrappy, McNicholl acrobatically finished in the corner after the home side created a pocket of space for the winger – once again, Halfpenny’s decoy was vital in the move.
With the game all but won, it was only a matter of the bonus point for Scarlets as they lay siege to the tiring Zebre backline.
And with just seven minutes to go, it was the relentless Cassiem who exploded through four Zebre defenders and dot down the crucial try.
With the floodgates now open, it was left to replacement Hardy to show all his speed and agility in his foray from deep before scoring.
Fellow substitute Nicholas replicated Hardy’s feat on the other flank as Wayne Pivac’s men rounded off a phenomenal win.
Tries: Cassiem 2, Parkes, McNicholl, Hardy, Nicholas
Cons: Halfpenny 6
Yellow cards: Marco Ciccioli (Zebre, 33), George Biagi (Zebre, 69)
Scarlets: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Ioan Nicholas, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Josh Macleod, 6 Will Boyde, 5 Steve Cummins, 4 Lewis Rawlins, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens (captain), 1 Wyn Jones.
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 Phil Price, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Josh Helps, 20 Ed Kennedy, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Rhys Patchell, 23 Kieron Fonotia.
Zebre: 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Gabriele Di Giulio, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Nicolas De Battista, 11 Paula Balekana, 10 Maicol Azzolini, 9 Guglielmo Palazzani, 8 Renato Giammarioli, 7 James Brown, 6 Maxime Mbandà, 5 George Biagi (captain), 4 Samuele Ortis, 3 Marco Ciccioli, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Daniele Rimpelli.
Replacements: 16 Massimo Ceciliani, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Fillipo Alongi, 19 Leonard Krumov, 20 Apisai Tauyavuca, 21 Joshua Renton, 22 Mattia Bellini, 23 James Elliott.
Referee: Quinton Immelman (SARU)
Assistant referees: Dan Jones (Wales), Gareth John (Wales)
TMO: Neil Paterson (Wales)