Zebre 7 - 10 Cardiff Blues
Sun 25 February 14:00 Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi Att: 1,000 Ref: Frank Murphy Guinness Pro14

Zebre 7 Cardiff Blues 10

Sun 25 Feb 2018 15:07 Zebre 7 Cardiff Blues 10
The wing crossed to break a 28-minute stalemate in the first-half and the kicking of Jarrod Evans ensured the Blues stayed in front after the Italians responded through Gio Venditti  

Danny Wilson’s side spent the majority of the second-half defending but displayed remarkable grit and determination to soak up sustained spells of Zebre pressure to secure their third consecutive Championship win.

The victory sees the Blues stretch their lead over Connacht in fourth place to five points and close the gap on Toyota Cheetahs to just six. 

The Blues made a bright start to the encounter despite the sub-zero conditions with housemates Owen Lane and Rhun Williams looking dangerous with ball in hand.

They had the opportunity to go for the posts after just three minutes but the penalty was outside of Evans’ range and he instead put the ball in touch.

The fly-half looked to unlock the Italian defence straight off first phase as he dinked a beautifully-weighted kick over the top for the onrushing Rey Lee-Lo.

He was unable to collect as Rory Parata saved the day for Zebre but he knocked on in the heavy collision and the Blues continued to attack.

Williams looked to release support on the outside but his pass was picked off by Parata, who had a clear run ahead.

However, he did not have the legs and Lee-Lo used the angle perfectly to get across and force the full-back to kick the ball away.

The Italian outfit then set-up camp in Blues territory for much of the next 10 minutes. They crossed the whitewash on three occasions from close-range but on each occasion they were held up.

The sustained period of pressure came to an end when Olly Robinson chopped down Derick Minnie from the back of the scrum and got to his feet to force a penalty for holding on.

Despite their best efforts, neither side was able to manufacture an opening on a heavy pitch with defences on top.

But Cardiff Blues finally broke the deadlock following a key interception from Ellis Jenkins shortly before the half-hour mark.

After juggling the ball in midfield, he attempted to float a long pass over the top and while it was blocked by Zebre, the loose ball fell to Lee-Lo, who offloaded to Lane.

The in-form wing eased away from the Italian defence and stepped inside Rory Parata, leaving the full-back stuck in the mud.

Lane dived over under the sticks and Evans added the extras to give his side a 7-0 lead and the score appeared to spark them into life.

They enjoyed several attacking opportunities and appeared to claim a second try after Aled Summerhill won the race to Evans’ intelligent kick to the corner.

It seemed as though the electric wing had downward pressure but following a succession TMO replays, Frank Murphy chalked the effort off and to compound the Blues’ woes Zebre quickly hit back.

The try came against the run of play as Cardiff Blues looked to twist the knife. As the ball was moved right Venditti gambled and slapped a pass up in the air – had he not collected if was a sure fire yellow card but he managed to cling on and needed no second invitation as he raced the length, avoiding Lee-Lo’s last ditch effort. 

Palazanni converted to level the scores but the deadlock did not last long as Jarrod Evans quickly slotted a penalty to give the Blues a 10-7 lead at the interval.

The hosts continued to enjoy the majority of territory and possession in the second half and caused the Blues new problems thanks to an emphasis on keeping the ball in play with offloads. 

A hanging cross-kick from Serafin Bordoli almost produced a second try for the hosts but Rhun Williams had other ideas as he thumped Gabriele Di Giulio into touch, injuring himself in the process.

The Italians had further chances as they dominated the second half but they were unable to break the resolute Blues down.

And after soaking up so much pressure, the Blues finally got a stranglehold on the encounter as they pinned Zebre into their 22 in the final 10 minutes to close the game out.