Scarlets outplay Zebre in Italy
PRO14 REPORT: Steff Evans and Johnny McNicholl were at the heart of a dynamic Scarlets attack as the defending champions made it two from two with a 41-10 victory over Zebre.
The Italians deserved more than their ten points, after creating endless opportunities at their home ground, but the Scarlets defence was impenetrable.
Evans came close several times too, but dotted down just once, with McNicholl scoring the only try of the first half.
The visitors were unrelenting after the break, though, and Evans, Paul Asquith, Tadhg Beirne and Aled Davies all added their names to the scoresheet.
Carlo Canna was the first man on the scoreboard, as he slotted a penalty in the third minute to take the home side ahead.
But Rhys Patchell made no mistake when given the opportunity to respond just two minutes later and the defending champions did not waste much time before getting McNicholl across the whitewash.
Patchell added three more, and kicking initially seemed the simplest way to claim points in the Parma drizzle, but Canna could not do the same and pulled the ball wide of the posts moments later.
The Welshman’s precise kicking gave Scarlets another attacking opportunity as the end of the first half drew nearer, he found McNicholl inside Zebre’s 22 but the Welsh side could find no way through.
Zebre put up a good battle to keep the visitors within reach at the end of the first half in their bid to avoid two losses to Welsh regions in two weeks.
The Italians came out with a dynamic attack at the beginning of the second half, threatening the red wall of defence on several occasions.
But Scarlets were just as quick out of the blocks and a rapid passage of play saw Evans with some space on the left wing.
The 23-year-old was unsuccessful on that occasion but swiftly recovered and a chip over the top saw him with plenty of room to score the side’s second try of the match.
Canna put in a chip of his own to bring Zebre within ten metres of the try-line and they repeatedly barrelled towards Wayne Pivac’s men, but Scarlets eventually won the penalty and cleared their lines.
After a period of back and forth, Patchell showed sublime vision to find space with a cross-field kick to McNicholl, who promptly offloaded to new signing Paul Asquith for the try.
Tadhg Beirne and Aled Davies found time for two more scores before the full-time whistle sounded and a well-timed interception by Mattia Bellini provided the home fans with some solace as the Italian added Zebre’s only try of the game.
Tries: McNicholl, Evans, Penalty Try, Beirne, Davies
Cons: Pacthell 4, Penalty
Pens: Patchell 2
Zebre: 15 Ciaran Gaffney, 14 Giulio Bisegni, 13 Tommaso Boni, 12 Tommaso Castello (captain), 11 Giovanni D'Onofrio, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Guglielmo Palazzani 8 Giovanni Licata, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Jacopo Sarto, 5 Valerio Bernabò, 4 David Sisi, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Tommaso D'Apice, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Roberto Tenga, 19 George Biagi, 20 Derick Minnie, 21 Marcello Violi, 22 Serafin Bordoli, 23 Mattia Bellini.
Scarlets: 15 Johnny Mcnicholl, 14 Tom Grabham, 13 Hadleigh Parkes, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 John Barclay (captain), 7 Will Boyde, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 David Bulbring, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Tom Price, 20 Josh Macleod, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Rhys Jones, 23 Paul Asquith.
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Vincenzo Schipani (Italy)
TMO: Leo Colgan (Ireland)