Cardiff Blues 28 Zebre 13
Saturday 13 April 2.30pm kick off Cardiff Arms Park
Supporters turned out in their thousands, braving the rain, to cheer on the home side in their last game at Cardiff Arms Park this season with Jamie Roberts and Ceri Sweeney stepping out on the Arms Park pitch for the last time in the Blues shirt.
Zebre kicked off the match, play immediately lead to a scrum in the Blues twenty-two. Holding the line of defence, an infringement by Blues allowed Zebre’s Daniel Halangahu to put the first points on the board for the visiting side.
The Blues responded rapidly, running down a Zebre kick, keeping the pressure on the Italian newcomers. Despite the waterlogged conditions both teams continued to play a running game, the mud making ball handling increasingly difficult.
A drive headed by Blues 10, Patchell, put the boys in blue back in to the opposition’s twenty-two. Zebre conceded an infraction soon after which allowed full back Leigh Halfpenny to neatly slot the ball over the posts to level the scores.
A Zebre lineout on the five meter line was won back by Michael Patterson, the ball was recycled to Patchell who ran through three Zebre defenders to score just shy of the left post. Converted by Halfpenny.
Minutes later Zebre replacement, Nicola Belardo, was called offside whilst defending the Blues attacking onslaught, allowing Halfpenny to extend the Blues’ lead to ten points.
Zebre responded with a driving attack and were rewarded for their efforts with a scrum on the five-metre line, Patchell intercepted but fumbled and the ball went to ground. A second scrum resulted in the home side conceding a penalty, which was slotted over by the Zebre fly half.
Blues, loosing their lineout, fought for possession with Marc Breeze hitting Davide Giazzon in a unyielding tackle casing him to release the ball forward and allowing the Blues to pick up another opportunity for Halfpenny to show his world class kicking skills, keeping his 100% record.
Breeze once again went in for a hard tackle, leading to a head on head collision with the Zebre centre Gonzalo Garcia, which saw both players replaced. With the game restarted and five minutes left of the first half, the Blues came back fighting. Patchell, side stepped Zebre’s Leonardo Sarto, making a break down the left hand touch-line and handed off to Roberts to keeping the ball in play. The large centre barrelled down the field and passed to the Captain, Gavin Evans, who ran in for a try in the corner. With Halfpenny missing the conversion, the score was 21-6 going into half time.
Half time Cardiff Blues 21 Zebre 6
Five minutes after the re-start saw a Blues’ scrum five metres out. The ball was stolen by Zebre scrum-half Alberto Chillon who fumbled, allowing Lewis Jones to recycle the ball to Patchell who went for a drop goal that floated wide.
Still in the opposition’s twenty-two, the Blues were fighting for the try line with Zebre defences struggled to keep them at bay. Hamilton, offloading to Lewis, passed to winger Williams who pushed for the whitewash before being bundled into touch.
With Zebre attempting to maintain possession, they came dangerously close to the Blues try line after Halfpenny failed to pick up a loose ball and it went into touch. A Zebre fumble saw it back in the hands of Patchell who cleared.
At sixty minutes the crowd gave a large cheer as Ceri Sweeny come onto the field to play the final twenty minutes of his Cardiff Blues career at home. Young wing Owen Willliams showed his pace, storming up field with Harry Robinson matching his stride, the opposition only managing to take him down in their own twenty two. The ball was recycled out but unfortunately the phase was lost.
Some scrappy play following a scrum saw the ball picked up by Walker who handed on to Jamie Roberts. Proving his worth, Roberts stormed down the centre line with two Zebre defenders hanging off him, powering over the whitewash and cementing his six year Blues career by putting five points on the board for the Capital city side. Halfpenny converted.
The final minutes of the game saw Zebre gain a condolence prize when replacement Filippo Cristiano crossed the Blues try line closing the gap. Alberto Chiesa got the extras.
However, the day belonged to the Blues and the large crowd stayed behind to show their appreciation to four great Cardiff Blues servants: Tom James, Ceri Sweeney and Jamie Roberts all leaving at the end of the season and Xavier Rush who retired from playing last summer.
Cardiff Blues 15 Leigh Halfpenny (73 off) 14 Owen Williams 13 Gavin Evans (c) 12 Jamie Roberts 11 Harry Robinson 10 Rhys Patchell (60 off) 9 Lewis Jones (71 off)
1 Taufa'ao Filise (73 off) 2 Marc Breeze (36 off) 3 Scott Andrews (73 off) 4 Lou Reed (73 mins) 5 Filo Paulo 6 Michael Paterson 7 Sam Warburton 8 Robin Copeland (49 off)
16 Kristian Dacey (36 on) 17 Thomas Davies (73 on) 18 Benoit Bourrust (73 on) 19 James Down (73 on) 20 Luke Hamilton (49 on) 21 Alex Walker (71 on) 22 Ceri Sweeney (60 on) 23 Gareth Davies (73 on)
Tries Patchell x1 Evans x1 Roberts x 1
Con Halfpenny x 2
Pen Halfpenny x 3
Tries Cristiano x1
Con Chiesa x1
Pen Halangahu x 2
Yellow Cards Sarto x1