Benetton Completed A Quickfire URC Double Against Zebre Parma


Benetton completed a quickfire United Rugby Championship double against their Italian rivals Zebre Parma by winning 40-17 at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.

But Zebre, beaten 38-5 by Benetton on Christmas Eve, gave their opponents a major fright before slipping to an 11th successive league defeat of the season.

Zebre had full-back Lorenzo Pani sent off seven minutes before half-time for a dangerous tackle on his opposite number Matteo Minozzi.

And although Benetton ultimately wiped out a 10-point interval advantage, they were made to work hard for a victory that took them into the URC's top eight.

Captain Federico Ruzza led the way by scoring a hat-trick of tries, while there were also touchdowns for flanker Manuel Zuliani, centre Tommaso Menoncello and replacement prop Federico Zani, with Benetton's former Wasps fly-half Jacob Umaga adding three conversions and Tomas Albornoz two.

Zebre led through early scores by centre Erich Cronje and wing Jacopo Trulla, while fly-half Tiff Eden kicked two conversions and a penalty, but Benetton had enough firepower to claim a sixth successive win in the fixture after scoring 33 unanswered second-half points.

Benetton suffered a miserable opening eight minutes, seeing lock Scott Scrafton carried off injured and conceding two tries.

Cronje claimed Zebre's opener before Scrafton had barely left the pitch, weaving his way through a wafer-thin Benetton defence for a try that Eden converted.

Then Trulla sprinted 80 metres for an opportunist try, again converted by Eden, before Benetton hit back when Zuliani crossed from close range and Umaga added the extras.

Pani was then dismissed for his challenge on Minozzi, but Zebre still finished the first half in control as a 40-metre Eden penalty made it 17-7 at the interval.

Benetton knew they had to make an immediate statement of intent in the second period, and it arrived after just four minutes when slick passing created space for skipper Ruzza to touch down wide out, and Umaga's successful conversion narrowed the gap to three points.

It proved a dominant display during the third quarter by Benetton, and they went ahead for the first time when Ruzza capitalised on poor lineout work by Zebre to claim his second try, again converted by Umaga.

Zebre had run out of steam after a courageous effort, and Menoncello sealed a bonus-point victory for Benetton when he touched down 12 minutes from time before Zani crossed and Ruzza completed his hat-trick.

Zebre Parma: Tries: Jacopo Trulla, Erich Cronje. Conversions: Tiff Eden (2). Penalty: Tiff Eden.
Benetton Rugby: Tries: Federico Ruzza (3), Manuel Zuliani, Tommaso Menoncello, Federico Zani. Conversions: Jacob Umaga (3). Tomas Albornoz (2).