Match Page 2017-18 - Scoreboard WP ID: 132

Match Page 2017-18 - Last Time WP ID: 133

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Preview: Benetton Rugby v Zebre

Paul Eddison 22 Dec 2017

There is plenty riding on Saturday’s first Italian derby with both Benetton Rugby and Zebre fighting for a Champions Cup place next season as they face off in Treviso.

The sides will meet at the Stadio Monigo having each won three Guinness PRO14 games so far in the campaign and knowing a pair of wins over their Italian rivals would boost their European hopes.

What’s at stake? Home side Benetton sit fifth in Conference B, but a run of four consecutive losses has seen them lose ground on Edinburgh in the battle for a European play-off spot.

Zebre are a place further back in sixth in Conference A, but just two points behind Connacht who currently sit in the play-off spot.

Zebre beat Connacht in their last league game, but have not won on the road since September and a trip to face the Southern Kings.

Team news (Benetton): Benetton have made seven changes to the side that lost to Scarlets last week, including a new-look centre pairing. Alberto Sgarbi and Ignacio Brex are paired together in midfield with Marty Banks in at fly-half in the only other change to the backline. Up front Nicola Quaglio and Tomas Baravalle come into the front row, while in the back row Whetu Douglas and Robert Barbieri are included.

Team news (Zebre): Zebre have rung the changes from the team that was well-beaten at Gloucester last weekend, with only three players keeping their place in the starting line-up. Giulio Bisegni shifts from centre to wing, accommodating the return of skipper Tommaso Castello. Meanwhile Maxime Mbandà moves to flanker from No.8 and the only other survivor is George Biagi, who continues in the second row.

Talking points: There has been reason for optimism this season with the Italian sides’ performances, and both were competitive in their European round three encounters, if a little less so in the return fixtures.

As a result this Italian derby has some extra spice and Benetton coach Kieran Crowley is expecting a tough encounter.

He said: “It is great that both Italian teams – Benetton and Zebre – are being more competitive this year in the Guinness PRO14, and playing some good rugby. This game is always one that is looked forward too by all the players and fans so hopefully it lives up to that expectation. We as a team have prepared well this week and are really looking forward to the challenge that Zebre will bring on Saturday.”

Key Battle: Tito Tebaldi v Marcello Violi

Italy have a wealth of experience at scrum-half, but it was Marcello Violi who got the nod in all three November Tests. Tito Tebaldi came off the bench for him in the clash with Argentina, and will be keen to lay down a marker against his international rival. With the hugely experienced Edoardo Gori waiting in the wings, the scrum-half battle should be one to watch.

Did you know? Benetton won both fixtures between the two sides last season, with those wins playing a large part in them finishing above their Italian rivals in the league.

Key Stat: Zebre have won just once on five trips to the Stadio Monigo. Their sole success came in January 2016, an 18-8 victory.

Benetton Rugby: Jayden Hayward; Angelo Esposito, Ignacio Brex, Alberto Sgarbi, Monty Ioane; Marty Banks, Tito Tebaldi; Nicola Quaglio, Tomas Baravalle, Tiziano Pasquali, Alessandro Zanni, Dean Budd, Whetu Douglas, Abraham Steyn, Robert Barbieri

Replacements: Hame Faiva, Federico Zani, Cherif Traore, Federico Ruzza, Marco Barbini, Edoardo Gori, Ian McKinley, Tommaso Benvenuti

Zebre: Matteo Minozzi, Mattia Bellini, Tommaso Boni, Tommaso Castello, Giulio Bisegni, Carlo Canna, Marcello Violi, Andrea Lovotti, Oliviero Fabiani, Dario Chistolini, David Sisi, George Biagi, Maxime Mbandà, Johan Meyer, Renato Giammarioli

Replacements: Tommaso D’Apice, Cruze Ah-Nau, Roberto Tenga, Jacopo Sarto, Derick Minnie, Guglielmo Palazzani, Serafin Bordoli, Ciaran Gaffney

TV: Eurosport Italia 2 (KO 3pm)

Match officials – Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR), AR1: Manuel Bottino (FIR). AR2: Andrea Piardi (FIR), TMO: Alan Falzone (FIR)

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie

Historical Lineup Pre Opta (sfms data) - Preview - v2

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Benetton claim Italian honours in the derby

Paul Eddison 23 Dec 2017

Angelo Esposito helped himself to a double as Benetton claimed the bragging rights with a 27-14 victory over 14-man Zebre at the Stadio Monigo.

The Italy winger crossed once in each half, with Hame Faiva and Edoardo Gori wrapping up all five points for Kieran Crowley’s side.

Zebre lost flanker Johan Meyer to a red card in the second half, and despite staying in touch for much of the game, scoring a try with 14 men through Giulio Bisegni, Gori’s effort ten minutes from time ended their hopes.

The visitors had the better of the early stages with Carlo Canna looking dangerous when he got his hands on the ball.

His clever chip should have led to the first try, but after he had collected the ball, his pass to Tommaso Boni did not go to hand with the centre seemingly through but unable to hold on.

Benetton had been very much on the back foot, but when they got their first real chance, they took it. After hammering away at the line on the left, Benetton then spread it right with Jayden Hayward providing a selfless final pass for Esposito to cross when he probably could have scored himself.

Marty Banks missed the conversion, but Benetton were in front and looked to be growing into the game as a result.

It was Zebre who struck next, however, Marcello Violi slotting a simple penalty after the home side had strayed offside on their own 22.

Leading by two at the break, Benetton stretched their lead within a minute of the restart as they punished a Zebre mistake.

The visitors tried to run the ball out of their own 22, but when they let a ball squirt loose at a ruck, the ball was shifted to Faiva, who had only just come on, and he was never going to be stopped by Violi at that range.

Banks converted but Zebre responded quickly with three points from the boot of Carlo Canna to make it 12-6.

Zebre’s task became much harder on 46 minutes when flanker Meyer was sent off for kicking out at Dean Budd on the floor. The Benetton second row was also given a yellow for holding onto Meyer, but it handed the home side a numerical advantage for much of the remainder of the game.

Banks rubbed salt into the wounds by slotting the resulting penalty.

The visitors could have crumbled at that moment, instead they hit straight back with their first try. It came from a break by Matteo Minozzi, and he played the two-on-one perfectly to send Bisegni over for the try.

And that was soon followed by another three points from the boot of Canna, despite the return of Budd to the action, with the visitors seemingly unaffected by being a man down.

However, just as it appeared that Zebre were getting back into it, Benetton struck again, once more from top scorer Esposito.

After lots of work from the forwards, Benetton chose to go to their backs, with Banks holding onto the ball long enough before sending Esposito over for the simple finish.

Benetton needed one more try for the bonus point, and it came after a dominant scrum. While Robert Barbieri could not control it all the way to the line, as it popped out, replacement Gori collected and dotted down.

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie

Match Page 2017-18 - Summary WP:137

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Performance WP:138