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Match Page 2017-18 - Scoreboard WP ID: 132

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Preview: Zebre v Cardiff Blues

Daniel Barnes 24 Feb 2018

Having returned to winning ways with an historic victory over Connacht in Round 15 of the Guinness PRO14, Zebre go looking to record back-to-back wins when they host Cardiff Blues on Sunday.

Michael Bradley’s troops celebrated a first-ever triumph at the Sportsground last time out and will be aiming to put the Blues through the wringer at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.

What’s at stake?

Zebre’s 19-11 win at Connacht brought a run of six straight Guinness PRO14 defeats to a decisive end.

The Italians remain bottom of the Conference A table and need to put points on the board to remain on the coat-tails of the teams above them.

The Blues, meanwhile, have won their last two games, defeating both the Toyota Cheetahs and Munster on home soil.

They remain in the hunt for a third-placed finish, with the Cheetahs in their sights.

Team news (Zebre)

After being released from international duty with Italy, Zebre will welcome centre Giulio Bisegni, prop Dario Chistolini and hooker Oliviero Fabiani into the fold.

As he makes his 102nd appearance for the club, Guglielmo Palazzani is named captain while Rory Parata switches to full-back, with Giovanbattista Venditti starting on the left wing.

Fly-half Serafin Bordoli replaces Carlo Canna while Zebre have a new-look second-row unit, with David Sisi partnering Leonard Krumov, James Tucker switching to the back row.

Team news (Cardiff Blues)

The Blues make six changes for their trip to Parma, with Rhys Gill, Kirby Myhill and Anton Peikrishvili linking up in the front row.

Damian Welch comes in for Seb Davies, who is away with the Wales squad, while Olly Robinson and Josh Turnbull step up from the bench after Macauley Cook and Nick Williams were ruled out with injury.

Talking points

Zebre head coach Bradley believes that his team are playing with freedom at the moment.

“If I was a player, I’d be enjoying it because we’re not playing one-dimensional rugby, we’re not kicking the ball and running after it all day,” he said.

“The coaching staff are saying to the players: ‘go back and remember when you used to enjoy the game and not have coaches tell you everything – run and enjoy with the ball in your hand,’ even for numbers one to eight.”

Meanwhile, Cardiff Blues boss Danny Wilson is anticipating a tricky afternoon for his team.

He said: “We all know it’s a very tough place to go to win. Gone are the days where you go to Zebre to pick up a bonus-point win.

“It’s an extremely difficult place and they got a result last week against Connacht away, and beat them quite comfortably.

“They’re not the route-one, set-piece and kicking-only team that they used to be. There is far more to them and therefore, they are a real threat.”

Key battle – Guglielmo Palazzani v Lloyd Williams

Sunday’s showdown will be a big day for 26-year-old Zebre man Palazzani, who became only the second man to accrue more than 100 caps for his team earlier this month.

He skippers Zebre as they attempt to take maximum points but his scrum-half rival Lloyd Williams comes into this weekend’s game in fine form.

The 28-year-old was a try-scorer as Cardiff defeated Munster 25-18 last time out.

Key stat: The Blues have lost just one of their last seven encounters with Zebre, a 15-26 defeat in Parma in October 2015.

Did you know? The Blues hold the advantage in the overall Guinness PRO14 head-to-head record between these two teams, having won eight games to Zebre’s three.

Zebre: Rory Parata, Gabriele Di Giulio, Giulio Bisegni, Faialaga Afamasaga, Giovanbattista Venditti, Serafin Bordoli, Guglielmo Palazzani (C), Derick Minnie, Johan Meyer, James Tucker, Leonard Krumov, David Sisi, Dario Chistolini, Oliviero Fabiani, Cruze Ah-Nau

Replacements: Luhandre Luus, Daniele Rimpelli, Roberto Tenga, Valerio Bernabò, Jacopo Sarto, Riccardo Raffaele, Maicol Azzolini, Matteo Pratichetti

Cardiff Blues: Rhun Williams, Aled Summerhill, Garyn Smith, Rey Lee-Lo, Owen Lane, Jarrod Evans, Lloyd Williams, Rhys Gill, Kyle Myhill, Anton Peikrishvili, George Earle, Damian Welch, Olly Robinson, Ellis Jenkins (C), Josh Turnbull

Replacements: Rhys Buckley, Brad Thyer, Scott Andrews, James Down, Alun Lawrence, Tomos Williams, Steve Shingler, Blaine Scully

Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU)

Assistants: Eddie Hogan-O’Connell (IRFU), Clara Munarini (FIR)

Citing Commissioner: Roberto Carra (FIR)

TMO: Alan Falzone (FIR)

TV: Eurosport Italia

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start from just €35 for adults and €10 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Evans kicks Cardiff Blues to narrow success over Zebre

Daniel Barnes 25 Feb 2018

The boot of Jarrod Evans proved the difference as Cardiff Blues won a war of attrition with Zebre to record their third win on the spin in the Guinness PRO14.

There wasn’t a point scored in the second period at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi but Evans’ penalty on the stroke of half-time bolstered Owen Lane’s first-half try and that proved enough for the visitors to reign in Parma.

The hosts turned the screw on their visitors early on with a succession of driving mauls but despite twice making their way to within a stone’s throw of the try line multiple times, the Blues held firm.

The early throes of the first period continued to follow that pattern, with the two teams largely cancelling each other out and the scoreboard showing a pair of zeroes.

Parity finally dissipated with 28 minutes on the clock, however, as Rey Lee-Lo pounced on a loose ball before quickly popping the ball to Lane, who took off, sidestepped Zebre’s Rory Parata, and then charged over the line to open the scoring, Evans adding the extras.

Six minutes later, the visitors came close to grabbing a second try of the game when Evans’ smart grubber kick left Aled Summerhill to charge down the ball but his attempted finish was ruled a knock-on.

But, in the 36th minute, the hosts drew level as Giovanbattista Venditti intercepted the ball before embarking on a lung-busting run from his own half, riding a tackle before storming over the line to dot down, skipper Guglielmo Palazzani converting to make it 7-7.

But the Blues would go into the break with their noses in front, Evans slotting a penalty just before the half-time whistle.

In the second period, Zebre and their visitors traded blows but neither was prepared to concede an inch, with scoring opportunities coming at a premium.

For all of their endeavour, the two teams struggled to fashion another breakthrough before time was up, with the Blues’ first-half efforts proving sufficient for them to take the spoils.

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start from just €35 for adults and €10 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