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Zebre salvage late draw against Cardiff

MATCH REPORT: Zebre claimed a converted try five minutes into stoppage time to salvage a 22-22 draw against United Rugby Championship opponents Cardiff in northern Italy.

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Replacement lock Leonard Krumov touched down following relentless pressure in the game’s final play, with flyhalf Geronimo Prisciantelli’s conversion levelling things up.

A week on from ending a 28-game losing run after beating South African side the Sharks, Zebre went close to another success that would have meant them passing last season’s entire league points total in only their fifth match of the season.

Cardiff looked to have done enough as they overturned a one-point deficit during the final 14 minutes through a Tinus de Beer penalty and wing Mason Grady claiming his team’s third try.

De Beer also converted scores by centre Ben Thomas and number eight Lopeti Timani, highlighting Zebre’s weakness in that department after Prisciantelli and Jacopo Trulla missed 11 points between them off the tee.

Centres Franco Smith and Luca Morisi scored first-half tries for the home side, with Prisciantelli adding a conversion and penalty before Zebre’s late show denied Cardiff an away win.

Zebre predictably started brightly on the back of beating Sharks, but Cardiff weathered early pressure and struck from their first concerted attack.

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Thomas was prominent in build-up play before finishing strongly, with De Beer’s conversion opening up a seven-point lead before Prisciantelli drifted a 35-metre penalty chance wide.

Prisciantelli was again off-target five minutes later, wasting Zebre’s territorial dominance that they had established through impressive work by flankers Giacomo Ferrari and Iacopo Bianchi.

And scrumhalf Alessandro Fusco was then yellow-carded by Scottish referee Mike Adamson for a dangerous tackle on Cardiff’s Wales international back Grady, increasing the home side’s degree of difficulty.

Wing Trulla completed a trio of penalty misses for Zebre, but they rocked Cardiff by scoring two tries in three minutes just before half-time.

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Smith pounced for the opener after Zebre battered away at Cardiff’s defence from close range, then his midfield partner Morisi struck following a flowing move that featured a key assist from wing Simone Gesi.

Wales forwards Corey Domachowski and Thomas Young went on as early second-half replacements, with Cardiff monopolising possession, and their reward came via a close-range effort from Timani that De Beer converted.

Prisciantelli edged Zebre back in front through a 62nd-minute penalty, yet it proved short-lived as De Beer struck from close range and made it 17-15 midway through the final quarter.

Grady’s score then looked to have broken Zebre’s resistance, but an admirable fightback reaped its reward when Krumov smashed through a tiring Cardiff defence.

Player of the Match
Lopeti Timani (Cardiff): Cardiff No.8 Timani was never far from the action to Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi as the Welsh side looked to halt Zebre’s mini-revival. He scored Cardiff’s second try and was a constant threat through his physical carrying and tactical awareness. Ultimately, Cardiff were denied victory as Zebre fought back to claim a 22-22 draw, but Timani could not have done much more.

Play of the Match
Cardiff’s intent this season is to play with width and pace, and such an approach was highlighted by their third try six minutes from time. It involved a trio of Wales internationals, with livewire scrumhalf Tomos Williams rifling out a pass to centre Uilisi Halaholo, who showcased his power and elusiveness before finding Mason Grady, who finished in the corner. It was high-class, and all executed with pinpoint precision.

The scorers:

For Zebre:
Tries: Smith, Morisi, Krumov
Cons: Prisciantelli 2
Pen: Prisciantelli

For Cardiff:
Tries: Thomas, Timani, Grady
Cons: De Beer 2
Pen: De Beer

Yellow card: Alessandro Fusco (Zebre, 24)

Teams: 

Zebre Parma: 15 Lorenzo Pani, 14 Jacopo Trulla, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Enrico Lucchin, 11 Simone Gesi, 10 Geronimo Prisciantelli, 9 Alessandro Fusco, 8 Giovanni Licata (Captain), 7 Iacopo Bianchi, 6 Giacomo Ferrari, 5 Andrea Zambonin, 4 David Sisi, 3 Juan Pitinari, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Danilo Fischetti
Replacements: 16 Marco Manfredi, 17 Luca Rizzoli, 18 Muhamed Hasa, 19 Leonard Krumov, 20 Davide Ruggeri, 21 Gonzalo Garcia, 22 Scott Gregory, 23 Guido Volpi

Cardiff: 15 Cam Winnett, 14 Harri Millard, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Ben Thomas, 11 Mason Grady, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Lopeti Timani, 7 Ellis Jenkins, 6 Alex Mann, 5 Teddy Williams, 4 Seb Davies, 3 Rhys Litterick, 2 Liam Belcher (Captain), 1 Rhys Carré
Replacements: 16 Ethan Daniel, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Will Davies-King, 19 Rory Thornton, 20 Thomas Young, 21 Ellis Bevan, 22 Willis Halaholo, 23 Jacob Beetham

Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Clara Munarini (Italy), Alberto Favaro (Italy)
TMO: Colin Stanley (Ireland)

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