Benetton do the double
PRO14 MATCH REPORT: 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.
Pens: Canna 2, Violi
Cons: Banks, McKinley
Pens: Banks 2
Zebre: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Giulio Bisegni, 13 Tommaso Boni, 12 Tommaso Castello (captain), 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Renato Giammarioli, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Maxime Mbandà, 5 George Biagi, 4 David Sisi, 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Tommaso D'Apice, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Roberto Tenga, 19 Valerio Bernabò, 20 Jacopo Sarto, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Serafin Bordoli, 23 Ciaran Gaffney.
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Luca Sperandio, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Abraham Steyn, 6 Whetu Douglas, 5 Dean Budd (captain), 4 Marco Lazzaroni, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Nicola Quaglio.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Federico Zani, 18 Cherif Traore, 19 Federico Ruzza, 20 Marco Barbini, 21 Edoardo Gori, 22 Ian McKinley, 23 Luca Morisi.
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Mark Patton, John Erskine (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)