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History on the Line for Benetton against Zebre

Avatar Guinness PRO14 Rugby Editor 26 Apr 2019

After a thrilling race in Conference B, Benetton could secure their qualification for the Guinness PRO14 Final Series with a win at Zebre.

But with the bottom-placed side keen to win the Italian derby, it’ll be a test for Kieran Crowley’s men.

What’s at stake?

Benetton will be kicking off at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi knowing that a bonus-point win will secure them their place in the Final Series.

Despite a disappointing home defeat to Munster, Crowley’s troops will look to push on with their brand of entertaining rugby.

With Zebre in their wake, they will see this as an opportunity to flex their offensive muscles – and crucially, dot down at least four times.

But Zebre will look to end the season on a high – and more importantly, build some momentum ahead of next season.

Team news (Zebre)

Michael Bradley has made eight changes as Zebre look to pick up their fourth win of the Guinness PRO14 campaign.

Andrea Lovotti and Johan Meyer – who spent the last three months sidelined with injury – slot into the forward pack, while scrum-half Joshua Renton also finds a place in the XV.

Leonard Krumov and Filippo Alongi also fit in, while Tommaso Boni and Mattia Bellini find themselves in the starting lineup as well.

Lastly, fly-half Maicol Azzolini will hope to impress as he gets a rare nod.

Team news (Benetton)

Kieron Crowley has gone for four changes in preparation for the crucial tie.

In the backs, Angelo Esposito, Luca Morisi and Alberto Sgarbe will slot it as the winger and centres respectively.

Meanwhile, Tito Tebaldi gets the nod at scrum-half.

Key battle – Monty Ioane vs Edoardo Padovani

Despite losing to Scarlets, full-back Edoardo Padovani was head and shoulders above for Zebre.

It was a performance typical of his season – the Italian international has gained 778 metres and beaten 18 defenders this campaign.

But he’ll have to stop Monty Ioane whenever the speedster breaks through – the lightning-fast winger has scored five tries at crucial moments for the Italian outfit.

Key fact: Despite being in the driving seat for the final Guinness PRO14 Final Series spot, Benetton have not won since March 2.

Did you know? The two sides may be faring differently on the points table, but Zebre have only totalled seven less points than their opponents this campaign.

 

Zebre: Edoardo Padovani, Mattia Bellini, Giulio Bisegni, Tommaso Boni, James Elliott, Maicol Azzolini, Joshua Renton, Andrea Lovotti, Oliviero Fabiani, Filippo Alongi, Leonard Krumov, George Biagi (capt), Maxime Mbandà, Johan Meyer, Renato Giammarioli

Replacements: Luhandre Luus, Daniele Rimpelli, Giosué Zilocchi, Samuele Ortis, James Brown, Guglielmo Palazzani, Nicolas De Battista, Gabriele Di Giulio

 

Benetton: Jayden Hayward, Angelo Esposito, Luca Morisi, Alberto Sgarbi, Monty Ioane, Tommaso Allan (c), Tito Tebaldi, Nicola Quaglio, Luca Bigi, Marco Riccioni, Irne Herbst, Federico Ruzza, Sebastian Negri, Abraham Steyn, Toa Halafihi

Replacements: Hame Faiva, Cherif Traore, Tiziano Pasquali, Dean Budd, Marco Lazzaroni, Marco Barbini, Dewaldt Duvenage, Antonio Rizzi

 

TV: At Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma, 6pm. Live on DAZN, Premier Sports 2 and Free Sports

Referee: Andrew Brace (IRFU)

AR1: John Lacey (IRFU), AR2: Mark Patton (IRFU)

TMO: Olly Hodges (IRFU)

 

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

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History-makers Benetton become first Italian side to reach Final Series

Avatar Charlie Bennett 27 Apr 2019

Monty Ioane’s diving finish secured Benetton Rugby a place in the Guinness PRO14 Final Series for the first time, as they saw off rivals Zebre.

The visitors, bidding to become the first Italian team to qualify, appeared nervous in the first half and only led by six points at the break thanks to tries from Luca Morisi and Toa Halafihi.

But, after surviving an intense spell of Zebre pressure, they took control thanks to scores from the tireless Sebastian Negri and wing Ioane.

The result assured Benetton of third place in Conference B, setting up a Semi-Final Qualifier at Munster.

Benetton, understandably nervous, made a slow start and spent much of the opening 20 minutes on the back foot, with Zebre dominating territory and possession.

However, they were restricted to just a penalty from fly-half Maicol Azzolini, with their defence – marshalled by the tough Braam Steyn – standing tall.

Eventually, Benetton enjoyed their own period of pressure and it told in the 20th minute when a simple line-out routine ended with fly-half Tommaso Allan chipping over the charging Zebre defence for the speedy Morisi.

The ball bounced perfectly for the centre, who gathered the ball in one hand and sped to the line to score the first try of the match.

Benetton threatened to take control but Zebre continued to match them and closed the gap to just a point when Azzolini fired through his second mid-range penalty.

Benetton, starting to look a little anxious, scrambled for a second try before half time but they wasted a golden opportunity when Morisi – seeking an unmarked Ioane on the left wing for an easy score – undercooked his pass out left and was intercepted.

However, they would not be denied again and just minutes later Steyn combined with Angelo Esposito to punch through a hole in the defence.

A gap emerged out wide and this time the pass did not miss its mark, with Halafihi planting the ball superbly in the corner.

Zebre, who had scored just seven fewer points this season than their opponents, attacked with intent after the re-start but Benetton’s defence stood firm.

And that resolve paid dividends when they laid siege to the Zebre line before fizzing the ball to left, where Negri gladly accepted Hayward’s looped pass to score.

With that score, the momentum shifted and Benetton upped the ante in search of that decisive fourth try.

And it came off the back of a neat move to the left after Allan again outfoxed Zebre’s rush defence, where Ioane’s athletic finish sent the away supporters wild.

There was time for a late consultation for Mattia Bellini but the day belonged to Benetton.

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

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Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

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