This is a clash of the bottom two in the Guinness PRO12 as 12th-placed Benetton Treviso host Italian rivals Zebre at at Stadio Monigo on Friday.
Both sides have managed just one win so far in this campaign, but should they double that number in front of their home fans then Treviso would climb off the foot of the table, with Zebre replacing them.
What’s at stake? Treviso are just two points behind 11th-placed Zebre in the Guinness PRO12 table, and a second win of the campaign for the hosts would see the two teams swap places in the table.
A second win of the season for Zebre would put breathing space between them and their Italian rivals, and put pressure on third-from-bottom Edinburgh.
Team news (Benetton Treviso): Luke McLean is in the No.15 jersey while Angelo Esposito and Luca Sperandio are on the wings.
The centres will be made up of Tommaso Benvenuti and captain Alberto Sgarbi, while Tito Tebaldi is at scrum-half and Tommaso Allan completes the backs at fly-half.
The pack is composed of Alberto De Marchi, Davide Giazzon and Simone Ferrari, with locks Marco Fuser and Dean Budd in action ahead of a back row that consists of Robert Barbieri, Abraham Steyn and Marco Barbini, the latter at No.8.
Team news (Zebre): Zebre have made eight changes to their starting XV that lost 54-15 to Stade Toulousain last time out.
There will be ten internationals capped by Italy during the November Test matches in the starting Zebre squad, with five of them back in action after missing the last match.
Those returning are full-back Edoardo Padovani, Giulio Bisegni, Andrea Lovotti, Quintin Geldenhuys and Andries Van Schalkwyk.
Talking points: Both teams have only one win so far this Guinness PRO12 season, but Zebre have two games in hand on Treviso following postponements. They will also be buoyed after earning themselves a losing bonus point in a 31-24 defeat to Scarlets last time out.
Key Battle: With the 2017 RBS 6 Nations fast approaching this will be an interesting tussle between the two fly-halves looking to bag themselves the Italy No.10 jersey. Zebre’s Carlo Canna seems to be in possession at the moment after starting the three November Tests, but Treviso’s Tommaso Allen came off the bench in each game.
Key stat: This will be the ninth official match between the two sides, with Treviso ahead five wins to three in the encounter. However, Zebre have won the last two meetings.
Did you know? Back on January 3 2015, Treviso snuck past Zebre 17-15 to record the double over their local rivals, having triumphed 26-16 the week before in the reverse fixture.
Top Treviso Points Scorer: Tommaso Allen 37pts. Top Treviso Try Scorer: Marco Fuser 3.
Top Zebre Points Scorer: Carlo Canna 55pts. Top Zebre Try Scorer: Giovanbattista Venditti 4
TV: Eurosport (KO 7.35pm local time)
Match officials – Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR). Assistant Referee 1: Emanuele Tomò (FIR). AR2: Simone Boaretto (FIR). TMO: Carlo Damasco (FIR)
Tommaso Allan enjoyed a night to remember as his 18 points guided Benetton Treviso to a 23-12 victory over Zebre at the Stadio Monigo in the Italian derby.
Zebre had won both meetings between the sides last season, and looked good heading into half-time in front following Dries van Schalkwyk’s try.
However in the second half it was Treviso, sitting bottom of the Guinness PRO12 heading into the game, who started to shift the momentum their way to run out emphatic winners.
And having given his side the lead with a third penalty, Allan pounced for an opportunistic try which ensured there would be no comeback for Zebre, especially once Luca Sperandio ran in an intercept try to put the home team out of sight.
The visitors at least had the final say, with Kayle van Zyl going over in the final seconds, but it was too little too late.
Treviso made the better start with Robert Barbieri coming desperately close to scoring, only for Carlo Canna to get back and force the error as he reached for the line.
Still, they took the lead midway through the half when Mattia Bellini was penalised, allowing Allan to open the scoring with a penalty.
Zebre could have levelled matters following a lineout steal by George Biagi and then a scrum penalty by Edoardo Padovani’s effort from 45 metres out fell short of the posts.
The visitors took the lead just after the half-hour however, when Biagi chose to go to the corner from a penalty. Using their powerful pack, Zebre rumbled over, with Van Schalkwyk emerging from the pile of bodies. Carlo Canna’s conversion made it 7-3 heading into the final minutes of the half.
Right on the stroke of half-time Treviso got back to within a point, Allan taking advantage of an offside to slot his second penalty of the evening.
That appeared to inspire the home side, and they were first to score in the second half, Allan again on target after Dario Chistolini had given away the penalty.
Leading 9-7, Treviso moved two scores clear thanks to their inspired fly-half, with Allan grabbing his first try of the season on 55 minutes.
Taking advantage of a lost ball from Canna, Allan scooped up possession and raced over for the score. His conversion made it 16-7 for Treviso who looked to be in control.
Allan could have stretched the lead further with a penalty which fell just short, followed by a drop goal that was off-target, but the home team looked to be in total control heading into the final stages.
Zebre threw everything at their hosts in search of a try to cut the deficit, but instead it was winger Sperandio who picked off a Canna pass and sprinted in for Treviso’s second try. Allan again converted and at 23-7 there was no way back.
Zebre did at least get a second try before time was up, with replacement Van Zyl going over on the left, but Canna could not convert from out wide on a difficult evening.
Guinness PRO12 Final 2017 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 adults and €5 child, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie. For further information visit http://www.pro12rugby.com/final
22 Dec 2016