The Italian derby rolls back around once again this weekend, with Zebre travelling to Treviso bidding to gain revenge for their narrow defeat to Kieran Crowley’s Benetton in Parma last weekend.
It was a scrappy contest in Round 8 played out in acutely unfavourable rugby conditions, with both sides’ desire to play any free-flowing, aesthetically-pleasing rugby being inhibited by the rain and mud.
So both Crowley and Michael Bradley will be hoping for a more fluidity-conducive setting in Treviso, as the visitors bid to put right their current record of only beating their Italian rivals once in the last nine meetings.
And while they can take solace from the fact Benetton have not won three Guinness PRO14 matches in a row since March – something they are attempting to achieve here – they will nevertheless come up against a fired-up outfit who will be eager to make progress in the competitive Conference B table.
Kick-off: Stadio Monigo | KO 13:00 (UK) / 14:00 (ITA), Saturday 28 December
How to watch: | Live on eir Sport 1, Free Sports, DAZN, pro14.tv
Referee: Andrea Piardi (FIR, 5th competition game),
AR1: Marius Mitrea (FIR), AR2: Manuel Bottino (FIR)
TMO: Alan Falzone (FIR)
Benetton: Jayden Hayward, Angelo Esposito, Ratuva Tavuyara, Luca Morisi, Leonardo Sarto, Ian Keatley, Dewaldt Duvenage, Federico Zani, Hame Faiva, Marco Riccioni, Niccolò Cannone, Eli Snyman, Sebastian Negri, Abraham Steyn, Toa Halafihi
Replacements: Engjel Makelara, Nicola Quaglio, Cherif Traore, Marco Fuser, Marco Lazzaroni, Marco Barbini, Tito Tebaldi, Antonio Rizzi
Zebre: Edoardo Padovani, Paula Balekana, Giulio Bisegni, Tommaso Boni, James Elliott, Carlo Canna, Marcello Violi, Danilo Fischetti, Marco Manfredi, Eduardo Bello, David Sisi, Mick Kearney, Maxime Mbandà, Johan Meyer, Giovanni Licata
Replacements: Oliviero Fabiani, Andrea Lovotti, Alexandru Tarus, Ian Nagle, Jimmy Tuivaiti, Joshua Renton, Junior Laloifi, Charlie Walker
Kieran Crowley’s Benetton fought back from an early red card to Nacho Brex to deliver a compelling six-try win over Italian rivals Zebre.
Benetton won narrowly away from home in the first instalment of the derby last week and flexed their muscles further back in Treviso with Hame Faiva’s hat-trick exacting considerable damage on Zebre.
Sporting their exuberant new third kit Benetton started the match effervescently, with a catch-and-drive on two minutes giving hooker Faiva the chance to score his fifth try of the season in all competitions – more would follow.
Zebre responded with a Marcello Violi penalty before the complexion of the game changed with Benetton centre Brex seeing red for lifting in the tackle, immediately capitalised on by Johan Meyer’s score.
Faiva upgraded to a double with the easiest of scores on 24 minutes, picking up and dotting down from a ruck, before Zebre got their second from an overlap out wide – Jamie Elliott on the board.
There was still time before the break for Elliott to see yellow and Monty Ioane to capitalise for a 17-13 half-time lead, and the pace continued after the interval as Maxime Mbanda crossed on 45 minutes.
Ian Keatley got Benetton’s bonus point score and Faiva replicated his first-half effort to complete his hat-trick, before being replaced by Enjel Makalara who continued the try-scoring hooker game.
With 12 minutes left to play Benetton led 36-18 – Zebre taking something from the game with their bonus point try coming from David Sisi on 72 minutes.
Easy decision this one, if you’re scoring a hat-trick from hooker you are earning man of the match.
Tries one and three came in accustomed style, from the back of mauls, but Faiva’s second displayed his instincts perfectly, the No.2 seeing space where the defence saw none.
Benetton may well have won the occasion but Zebre earn our play of the day.
Their third try came in that classic use of space on a rugby pitch, the forwards sucking the defence in narrowly before full-back Edoardo Padovani stepped into the line to fling a giant pass out wide to Mbanda.