United Rugby Championship: Cardiff 42-14 Zebre

Lloyd Williams scored one of Cardiff’s first-half tries against Zebre
Cardiff (35) 42
Tries: Ratti, L Williams, Penalty try, Lane 2, Llewellyn; Cons: Priestland 4, Thomas
Zebre (0) 14
Tries: Cronje, Mbanda Cons: O’Malley, Canna

Cardiff cruised to a bonus-point win over Zebre in their final United Rugby Championship home game of the season.

Dai Young’s men ended a five-match losing sequence with two tries from Owen Lane, a penalty try and scores from James Ratti and Lloyd Williams establishing a 35-point first-half lead.

Zebre responded with tries from Erich Cronje and Maxime Mbanda.

Cardiff centre Max Llewellyn completed the scoring with a late try.

This six-try victory will not paper over the cracks of a poor season for Cardiff as they lie 13th in the URC table, but the first-half performance will at least provide some encouragement to the home fans for next season.

It was also achieved without 14 injured players including Wales internationals Josh Adams, Tomos Williams, Willis Halaholo and Jarrod Evans.

The result provided a minor boost for Welsh regional rugby with the headlines this week dominated by a proposal in a report to consider cutting one of the four professional sides.

Zebre’s long 14-month wait for a URC victory finally ended last weekend with their 23-18 victory over Dragons in Parma. This display demonstrated why they remain bottom of the 16-team table.

Century celebrations

Lock Seb Davies led his side out in his 100th appearance for Cardiff, while Zebre gave a debut at centre to Franco Smith Jr, the son of former South Africa fly-half and current Italy head of high performance.

Number eight Ratti powered over from close range on five minutes, following an initial charge from centre Llewellyn.

Cardiff extended their lead five minutes later with scrum-half Williams crossing after a break and offload from prop Rhys Carre on his 50th Cardiff appearance.

A penalty try was awarded as wing Theo Cabango was denied a try in the corner by a high tackle by Junior Laloifi who was also shown a yellow card by Scottish referee Ben Blain.

Wing Lane clocked up the bonus-point try inside 21 minutes with a fine finish before adding his second just before half-time.

Lane scored an opportunist try after chasing down a Williams’ chip kick as the hosts led by 35 points at the interval.

Zebre responded with an early second-half try from centre Erich Cronje before Cardiff replacement hooker Kirby Myhill was introduced to register his 100th league appearance.

He marked the occasion by soon departing the field for 10 minutes with a needless late no-arms tackle that warranted a yellow card.

Zebre took advantage of the extra man and soft Cardiff defence with flanker Mbanda striding over for a second try for the Italians.

Cardiff will be disappointed with the scrappy second-half display but Llewellyn finished with a flourish with a fine individual try, converted by Ben Thomas.

Cardiff: Matthew Morgan; Owen Lane, Rey Lee-Lo, Max Llewellyn, Theo Cabango; Rhys Priestland, Lloyd Williams; Rhys Carré, Liam Belcher, Dmitri Arhip, Seb Davies, Matthew Screech, James Botham, Josh Navidi (capt), James Ratti.

Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Corey Domachowski, Dillon Lewis, Teddy Williams, Ellis Jenkins, Ellis Bevan, Ben Thomas, Mason Grady.

Zebre: Michelangelo Biondelli; Junior Laloifi, Erich Cronjé, Franco Smith Jr, Simone Gesi; Timothy O’Malley, Chris Cook; Paolo Buonfiglio, Luca Bigi, Ion Neculai, David Sisi (capt), Andrea Zambonin, Luca Andreani, Maxime Mbandà, Jimmy Tuivaiti.

Replacements: Massimo Ceciliani, Juan Pitinari, Eduardo Bello, Gabriele Venditti, Ross Vintcent, Nicolò Casilio, Carlo Canna, Lorenzo Pani.

Referee: Ben Blain (SRU)

Assistant referees: Simon Rees & Carwyn Williams (WRU)

TMO: Ian Davies (WRU).

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