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Preview: Scarlets v Zebre

Avatar Rich Dore 12 Apr 2019
Parkes

There’s a Welsh-Italian clash in west Wales on Saturday afternoon as Scarlets play host to Zebre with an outside chance of making the Final Series from Conference B. Wayne Pivac’s side sit fifth in Conference B with two matches of the regular season remaining, so will need other results to go their way as well as gaining near maximum points from the campaign conclusion.

What’s at stake? That feat is realistically attainable for Scarlets, fortunately playing the two bottom sides in their final Guinness PRO14 fixtures of the regular season. Helping this, too, is the fact that Zebre have never beaten Scarlets in 11 previous meetings, just the one draw the best they have managed. The Italian side of course, are looking to finish their campaign on a high and have the capability to shock Scarlets.

Team news (Scarlets): Scarlets have made three changes to their starting XV for their final Guinness PRO14 home match of the season, as prop Rob Evans is ruled out with injury, replaced by fellow Wales international Wyn Jones – Evans is to undergo surgery and will miss the remainder of the campaign. Flanker James Davies is absent with an oblique injury so Josh Macleod comes into the back row, while Ioan Nicholas comes in for Steff Evans on the wing.

Team news (Zebre): Zebre will take the field at Parc y Scarlets with eight changes to the starting line-up from Round 19, with an all-new half-back pairing made up of Maicol Azzolini and Guglielmo Palazzani. In the pack, Daniele Rimpelli will start in the front row and Samuele Ortis in the second row – Fijian James Brown starts at openside flanker.

Talking points: Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac commented: “Our focus is on ten points from our last two games, it is as simple as that. This is our final home game of the season and we want to deliver an 80-minute performance we can all be proud of. We want to finish with a bang.”

Key battle – Leigh Halfpenny v Edoardo Padovani

It’s the battle of the internationals at full-back on Saturday at Parc y Scarlets as Wales’ Leigh Halfpenny lines up against the Azzurri’s Edoardo Padovani. Halfpenny is of course one of the most experienced No.15s in the world game and offers first-class kicking ability, superb positioning and never-say-die defence. Padovani, 25, already has 20 international caps to his name, scoring four tries, and will need to be at his best to counter the Welsh side’s kicking threat.

Key stat: Scarlets have not lost back-to-back home games in the Championship since September 2016.

Did you know? Scarlets have lost their last two Guinness PRO14 matches, at Cardiff Blues and at home to Edinburgh, they have not lost three in a row in the Championship since December.

Scarlets: Leigh Halfpenny, Johnny McNicholl, Jonathan Davies, Hadleigh Parkes, Ioan Nicholas; Dan Jones, Gareth Davies; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens (capt), Samson Lee, Lewis Rawlins, Steve Cummins, Will Boyde, Josh Macleod, Uzair Cassiem
Replacements: Marc Jones, Phil Price, Werner Kruger, Josh Helps, Ed Kennedy, Kieran Hardy, Rhys Patchell, Kieron Fonotia

Zebre: Edoardo Padovani, Gabriele Di Giulio, Giulio Bisegni, Nicolas De Battista, Paula Balekana, Maicol Azzolini, Guglielmo Palazzani; Daniele Rimpelli, Oliviero Fabiani, Marco Ciccioli, Samuele Ortis, George Biagi (c), Maxime Mbandà, James Brown, Renato Giammarioli

Replacements: Massimo Ceciliani, Danilo Fischetti, Fillipo Alongi, Leonard Krumov, Apisai Tauyavuca, Joshua Renton, Mattia Bellini, James Elliott
TV: Live on Premier Sports, DAZN, eir Sport

Referee: Keith Allen (SRU)

AR1: Dan Jones (WRU), Graeme Ormiston (SRU)

TMO: Neil Patterson (SRU)

The Guinness PRO14 Final is one of the most entertaining games in the rugby calendar and takes place in Glasgow’s Celtic Park on May 25. Tickets start at just £25 for adults, £1 for kids. Visit www.pro14rugby.org/finaltickets

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

Cassiem stars in crucial Scarlets win

Avatar Guinness PRO14 Rugby Editor 13 Apr 2019

Uzair Cassiem’s double inspired a crucial victory for Scarlets as the Welsh side kept their Guinness PRO14 Final Series qualification hopes alive with a brilliant performance against Zebre Rugby Club.

The South African drove over the line early on as Scarlets looked to lay down a mark following some early Zebre pressure.

The experienced Hadleigh Parkes then crossed thanks to a brilliant decoy run from Leigh Halfpenny before Johnny McNicholl finished Scarlets’ third try on the hour.

With less than ten minutes to go, Cassiem secured the all-important bonus point before Kieran Hardy and Ioan Nicholas embellished the score to keep Scarlets in the hunt for the Final Series.

In a must-win game for the Welsh side, it was the Conference A strugglers who started the better.

Finding gaps at will in the opening ten minutes, Zebre threatened but couldn’t get the crucial breakthrough – and were made to pay the price.

Scarlets’ powerful forward pack drove the opposition back in a scrum before Cassiem powered over in front of a relieved Parc y Scarlets.

Zebre dominated possession without much product until the half hour mark as the home side failed to capitalise on their early score.

Scarlets kept looking to Parkes at centre for inspiration – and the ploy eventually worked thanks to a precise Dan Jones pass and a dummy run from Leigh Halfpenny which allowed the Welsh international to score.

Edoardo Padovani almost changed the narrative completely as he intercepted a pass on the right wing before running the length of the field – but his attempted cross field kick was brilliantly blocked by Will Boyd.

But as the hour mark approached and the game started to become scrappy, McNicholl acrobatically finished in the corner after the home side created a pocket of space for the winger – once again, Halfpenny’s decoy was vital in the move.

With the game all but won, it was only a matter of the bonus point for Scarlets as they lay siege to the tiring Zebre backline.

And with just seven minutes to go, it was the relentless Cassiem who exploded through four Zebre defenders and dot down the crucial try.

With the floodgates now open, it was left to replacement Hardy to show all his speed and agility in his foray from deep before scoring.

Fellow substitute Nicholas replicated Hardy’s feat on the other flank as Wayne Pivac’s men rounded off a phenomenal win.

The Guinness PRO14 Final is one of the most entertaining games in the rugby calendar and takes place in Glasgow’s Celtic Park on May 25. Tickets start at just £25 for adults, £1 for kids. Visit www.pro14rugby.org/finaltickets

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