Zebre shock Benetton
PRO14 REPORT: Tommaso Boni and Jimmy Tuivaiti scored a try each as Zebre shocked rivals Benetton 17-13 in the first Pro14 match since March.
The visitors were the better team for much of the contest, as they won on the road for the first time since November and beat their fellow Italians for the first time since April 2018.
Joaquin Riera scored a consolation try for Benetton with the last play of the game, but his team remain fifth in Conference B after missing the chance to climb above Connacht.
Benetton head coach Kieran Crowley promised a few surprises in the build-up to this match but few would have expected Alberto Sgarbi to be starting in the back row.
The 33-year-old is an experienced international centre but found himself at No.6 while, at the other end of the spectrum, young flyhalf Paolo Garbisi was given the chance to show what’s he got, and the Italy Under-20s star duly scored the first points of the game with a penalty.
Zebre scored the first try in the 21st minute when a line-out midway inside the Benetton half fell to Carlo Canna, who cleverly kicked on for Boni to touch down.
Canna converted that and added a penalty just before half-time, as the visitors dominated possession and territory, while Benetton lost Marco Lazzaroni to the sin-bin.
Garbisi cut the gap to four points with a simple kick from in front of the posts minutes into the second half, as the hosts piled on the pressure.
Benetton wing Leonardo Sarto almost sprinted in for a try on the left, only for Mattia Bellini to shove him into touch just in time, as Zebre clung on in the face of a Benetton onslaught.
The game then paused briefly as Benetton lock Alessandro Zanni was replaced in his last ever game before retirement.
That break in play helped Zebre regroup and they had a chance to extend their lead with a penalty, only for replacement Antonio Rizzi to send it wide of the posts.
However, they scored a second try with 15 minutes to go as replacement Tuivaiti burrowed over after a sustained period of pressure.
That killed off Benetton, despite Riera’s last score in the corner.
Play of the Day
There’s no doubt about this. With the score at 10-6, the game was on a knife edge heading into the final 15 minutes – until Zebre pulled clear.
Camped inside Benetton’s 22, they pounded away at the hosts’ defensive line, going through multiple phases of pick-and-go’s until Tuivaiti got the ball down.
Zebre’s reaction said it all. They knew they had the game won.
Pens: Garbisi 2
Tries: Boni, Tuivaiti
Cons: Canna, Rizzi
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Luca Sperandio, 13 Joaquin Riera, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Leonardo Sarto, 10 Paolo Garbisi, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Braam Steyn, 7 Michele Lamaro, 6 Alberto Sgarbi (captain), 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Alessandro Zanni, 3 Filippo Alongi, 2 Tomas Baravalle, 1 Ivan Nemer.
Replacements: 16 Gianmarco Lucchesi, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Simone Ferrari, 19 Marco Lazzaroni, 20 Manuel Zuliani, 21 Charly Trussardi, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Marco Zanon.
Zebre: 15 Michelangelo Biondelli, 14 Jamie Elliott, 13 Giulio Bisegni (captain), 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Giovanni Licata, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Maxime Mbandà, 5 Leonard Krumov, 4 David Sisi, 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Daniele Rimpelli.
Replacements: 16 Massimo Ceciliani, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Giosuè Zilocchi, 19 Cristian Stoian, 20 Jimmy Tuivati, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Antonio Rizzi, 23 Federico Mori.
Referee: Andrea Piardi
Assistant referees: Gianluca Gnecchi, Manuel Bottino
TMO: Marius Mitrea