Seven days after their thrilling encounter, Zebre and Benetton do it all again this time in Parma on Saturday, December 30.
It was Benetton who prevailed last time thanks to a Angelo Esposito double but it could be a very different story at the at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.
What’s at stake?
Home side Zebre currently sit sixth in Conference A with three wins from their 11 matches, four points clear of bottom side Ospreys.
Zebre were impressive in their victory over Connacht at the start of the month but continued their poor away form against Benetton last time out.
Benetton meanwhile will be buoyed from their thrilling victory over their Italian rivals last time out, a result which put them six points clear of Dragons and leaves them fifth in Conference B.
Team news (Zebre):
Argentine prop Eduardo Bello steps in to start in the Italian derby for the first time as Zebre make two changes from the 27-14 at Benetton.
Derick Minnie is the only other change as Zebre head into the match without Johan Meyer after he was sent off seven days ago. He will line up alongside Maxime Mbandà and Renato Giammarioli in the back row.
Team news (Benetton):
The loss of Angelo Esposito to injury is a huge blow for Benetton after he suffered a sprained knee in the previous encounter.
Ignacio Brex has not trained with the team during the week due to a virus and hooker Tomas Baravalle suffered a blow to the head in the final minutes of the first half.
Benetton’s Kieran Crowley said: “Last week, despite some mistakes, we conducted a good match.
“Surely tomorrow we expect a different game, Zebre will want to win but we are ready to face them. As happened in the last match, we will have to be good at exploiting all the opportunities we will have.”
Key battle: Luca Sperandio v Giulio Bisegni
In the absence of the free-scoring Angelo Esposito, this match could be won or lost on how Luca Sperandio fills the void left by the winger.
Esposito dotted down twice a week ago to take the game away from Zebre but his replacement is yet to find the try line in eight appearances this campaign.
Guilio Bisegni has been a shining light for Zebre this season and crossed the whitewash in the 27-14 defeat last week.
The winger, who is also capable of lining up in the centres, has been a constant threat all season and if he’s on top form in Parma, the Italian international will take some stopping.
Zebre’s two victories at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi this season in the Guinness PRO14 were against Irish provinces: Ulster in round 5 and Connacht in round 10.
Did you know?
Benetton’s only away win this season was over Edinburgh Rugby at Myreside in round 3.
Zebre: Matteo Minozzi, Giulio Bisegni, Tommaso Boni, Tommaso Castello (c), Mattia Bellini, Carlo Canna, Marcello Violi, Andrea Lovotti, Oliviero Fabiani, Eduardo Bello, David Sisi, George Biagi, Maxime Mbandà, Derick Minnie, Renato Giammarioli
Replacements: Tommaso D’Apice, Andrea De Marchi, Roberto Tenga, Valerio Bernabò, Jacopo Sarto, Guglielmo Palazzani, Serafin Bordoli, Ciaran Gaffney
Benetton: Jayden Hayward, Luca Sperandio, Tommaso Benvenuti, Alberto Sgarbi, Monty Ioane, Marty Banks, Tito Tebaldi, Nicola Quaglio, Luca Bigi, Tiziano Pasquali, Marco Lazzaroni, Dean Budd (c), Whetu Douglas, Abraham Steyn, Robert Barbieri
Replacements: Hame Faiva, Federico Zani, Cherif Traore, Federico Ruzza, Marco Barbini, Edoardo Gori, Ian McKinley, Luca Morisi
Match officials – Referee: David Wilkinson, AR1: Mark Patton, AR2: John Erskine, TMO: Brian MacNeice
TV: Eurosport Italia 2 (KO – 3pm)
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
Dean Budd’s late try helped Benetton Rugby to complete the double over Italian rivals Zebre, with a hard-fought win in Parma.
Benetton had triumphed 27-14 on home turf last week, and the first half in the reverse fixture was a tense affair, with two penalties from Zebre’s Carlo Canna being cancelled out by two from Marty Banks.
The second half exploded into life with Benetton full-back Jayden Hayward displaying his class to cross, only for Mattia Bellini to immediately respond with a try of his own.
A Marcello Violi penalty put the hosts ahead, but Zebre had no answer just minutes later when Budd got the crucial score to seal the double and keep up pressure on Edinburgh in the Guinness PRO14 Conference B table.
Zebre led after just three minutes with an excellent 40-metre penalty from Canna, but Banks levelled things up minutes later with a kick of his own following a scrum penalty
The two Italian sides are well-matched and so it proved for the majority of the first-half, with defences on top and limited opportunities for both attacks.
With the scores level going into the final 10 minutes of the half the home side pressed for the advantage, with Canna kicking deep into Benetton territory.
But the visitors punted upfield and when Tommaso Boni was caught in his own 22 another chance for a three-pointer presented itself, with Banks wasting no time in grabbing it.
Canna brought things to 6-6 at the break, and after the interval Benetton looked fired up – with a sustained period of pressure brought to a close when Hayward dummied wide before jinking his way over the line.
Banks added the extras but Benetton’s lead wasn’t to last long as Canna’s break saw Zebre move upfield before the fly-half then fed winger Bellini for an easy run-in.
A deadlock was again reached, with some punishing hits in defence, but the hosts were determined to control the game and phase after phase of pressure around the 65-minute mark resulted in a high tackle on Canna, and three more points from the boot of Violi.
Once again the match swung and Benetton responded to the penalty almost immediately, powering their way downfield through a succession of drives before lock Budd cleverly dived in to place the ball at the foot of the post.
With Benetton leading 20-16, Zebre pushed hard for the win and fought their way into the opposition 22, only for a choke tackle to deprive them of possession with just three minutes left to play.