Cardiff Blues 37 - 12 Zebre
HT 22-7
Sat 05 June 19:35 Cardiff Arms Park Ref: Ben Blain Rainbow Cup

Cardiff Blues 37 Zebre Rugby Club 12

Sat 5 Jun 2021 21:00 Cardiff Blues 37 Zebre Rugby Club 12

Cardiff bid farewell to the Blues in an action-packed, bonus point victory over Zebre Rugby Club in the final encounter of the Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup.

With last week's narrow defeat in Munster ruling out the possibility of a place in the final, Dai Young's side went into the clash looking to sign off the season in style, and it was certainly an action packed evening in the capital.

The hosts held a good lead at the interval, as Dan Fish joined back row duo James Botham and Gwilym Bradley on the scoresheet.

However, Zebre quickly found themselves back in the encounter, as they dotted down on either side of the break.

It was a long winded second half at the Arms Park, with a number of incidents directed to the TMO, but the hosts eventually ran away with the win.

Replacement Cristian Stoian was shown a red card for a shoulder charge on Tomos Williams, and moments later the bonus point was in the bag after Carlos Canna's deliberate tap back resulted in a penalty try.

The maximum points were safely secured with five minutes remaining as Harri Millard's stunning finish in the corner capped off the campaign for Cardiff.

Following a thunderous hit from Dillon Lewis and a turnover from Cory Hill two phase later, Jarrod Evans booted the scoreboard into action on nine minutes.

He had the opportunity to keep it ticking on 15 minutes but opted for the corner and after the pack ambled towards the whitewash and were brought to a halt agonisingly short Oliviero Fabiani, was sent to the bin.

The Blues went back to the corner and this time there was no stopping the pack who powered over, giving 20-year-old Bradley his first try in Cardiff colours.

It did not take Young’s side to claim a second try after the snaffled loose ball on the edge of the 22. A pin-point pass from Willis Halaholo almost put Jason Harries away and while he was hauled short the damage was done.

Cardiff went through the phases, with the pack again keen to assert their dominance and after several phases Botham drove over from close range.

Evans converted to make it 15-0 and the home side continued to control affairs in the scrappy encounter.

Some individual brilliance from Evans almost created a quick-fire third try as a spot rush forced him back inside. He ran into traffic but displayed his dazzling footwork before releasing Dan Fish on the outside.

Fish turned back the years to scorch down the left before kicking ahead for Lloyd Williams but despite the scrum-half’s best efforts, the ball did not quite sit up and he fumbled at full pace.

The third try finally came on 35 minutes as Evans again kicked to the corner. This time they went to the backs and Evans pulled the ball behind to Matthew Morgan, who went on a trademark arcing break to make Pierre Bruno commit. 

He popped the ball to Fish on the outside, who feigned an inside step before pivoting over for a fine team score. Evans slotted the touchline conversion to bring the scores to 22-0.

Cardiff Blues continued to threaten but it was Zebre who scored next as the ball was popped out of contact to Carlo Canno, who exposed the rush defence to put Bruno through untouched. 

Canna added the extras to make it 22-7 at the break and took the Italians just 32 seconds of the second-half to claim a second try. 

After receiving the kick-off they burst through midfield on the 22 with the ball spread to Federico Mori, who raced clear.

Zebre continued to enjoy all the momentum and errors also handed them easy territory. They turned the screw but were dealt a blow after Daniele Rimpelli was sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous clear lout after Cory Hill pounced for a turnover.

It could perhaps had been more but following extended replays Scottish referee Ben Blain opted for just yellow. 

That gave Cardiff Blues the opportunity to clear but Zebre came storming back once more with Canna utilising a clever tactical kicking game. 

Another captain’s challenge could have seen a second Zebre player punished but despite Blain agreeing an offence had taken place there were not clear replays to punish the incident.

The continued use of the challenge, this time from Zebre, ensured the second-half never got going and was instead stop-start and error strewn. 

Evans slotted Cardiff Blues first points of the second half on 65 minutes to offer some breathing space. He missed with another effort minutes later and there was soon yet another extended break, after Tomos Williams was taken out at the breakdown. 

Play initially continued, even after an incensed Williams flew back into the ruck, but after the TMO intervened,  replays clearly showed Christian Stoian lead with a tucked arm and make contact shoulder to head. 

He was unsurprisingly given his marching orders but there was yet more drama as Cardiff put the result beyond doubt.  

Williams had chipped over the top for a ruck and despite the ball initially evading both Ben Thomas and Evans, it bounced high and was slapped out of play by Canna. Again, Blain consulted the TMO and the fly-half was sent to the bin with a penalty try awarded. 

With Zebre down to 13 for the remainder of the half and now lacking any composure, Cardiff attacked from all angles.

They claimed a fifth try in stunning fashion as they attacked from inside their own 22 and went racing down the left. Play eventually came back to the right and Thomas ghosted through the Italian defence with his trademark silky stride before floating a pass to Millard, who finished acrobatically.