Matt Sherratt has paid tribute to Cardiff Blues' game management as they edged to a scrappy victory over Zebre to maintain their winning start to the Guinness PRO12.
Tries from Blaine Scully, Matthew Morgan and Tom James put Wales’ Capital Region on track for victory in Parma but the hosts fought back.
The Blues had been chasing a bonus-point try but two quick-fire strikes from Zebre set up a tense finale, which was navigated with aplomb.
Backs and attack coach Sherratt said: “In previous seasons the Blues have really struggled in Italy, but the boys dug deep to hang on in the end. It was scrappy, but it is an important win for the team.
“You can never take anything for granted coming to a place like Zebre and they pushed us all the way. In previous years this is a game the Blues would probably have lost, but now we can look forward to making life as difficult as possible for Leinster on our own patch next weekend.
“There were a lot of errors from both teams throughout the game and we played into their hands a bit in the early stages by giving them a lot of set-piece opportunities. We then got back to our pattern of play and built up a useful lead.
“But don’t forget this is a side that led the reigning champions, Connacht, by a big margin at half-time last week before the game was called off. They came back into the game with two second half tries and at 23-21 it could have gone either way.
“That’s when some of our senior players stood tall. Gethin Jenkins picked up another superb turn-over close to our line and Gareth Anscombe nursed us up field with some great kicks that kept Zebre out of range at a critical time.
“That game management under pressure was critical and the quality we are now able to bring off the bench is playing a big part in our success.”
With four Championship wins under their belt, Cardiff Blues host Leinster at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park before travelling to face the Ospreys.
Sherratt admits they will be two monumental tests but while focussing on Leinster, he is hopeful that a bumper crowd turns out to hammer home their home advantage.
He added: “We can now celebrate this win and then get back down to the hard work on Tuesday in preparing for the visit of Leinster.
“Our goal is to make it as difficult as possible for every team who comes to the Arms Park and the fans are helping us to build a fortress like atmosphere at the ground. All of us are getting excited at the prospect of facing Leinster and then the Ospreys.
“Both games are going to test us to the full, but we want to keep our unbeaten run going for as long as possible.”