Blues put 60 past Zebre

Date published: September 6 2015

Rhys Patchell scored a hat-trick as Cardiff Blues hammered Italian Pro12 opponents Zebre 61-13 in Cardiff.

First half tries from Josh Navidi, Tom James and Aled Summerhill put Blues into a dominant 20-6 advantage at the break, and they went onto score seven more tries in the next 40.

Patchell and Josh Turnbull shared six as they both claimed three each, with the other going to Summerhill who along with Navidi got a brace.

In this opening game of the season, Blues took a front foot early on in proceedings, penning in the Zebre backline for chunks of the first 10 minutes, only to fall behind.

Maico Azzolini kicked Zebre three points in front when presented with his first kicking chance, not that they led for long. Josh Navidi, leading out the Blues, was the first man over ahead of a dominant performance.

Despite having a chance to equalise, Cardiff kicked towards the corner where Navidi was able to ground the ball past the line following a perfectly executed line-out.

The missed conversion allowed Zebre to sneak back into an early lead minutes later through the boot again of Azzolini, but from then on they had no opportunity to answer the Blues attack's wonderful pressing.

Jarrad Hoeata found James, who on his return to the ground where he has so much history, went over to grab his 40th try in a Blues shirt. And three minutes later, Zebre found themselves breached again.

This time it was Summerhill who etched his name into the scoresheet, making the most of neat interplay between Navidi and Tavis Knoyle to finish off a well worked counter attack, leaving Zebre in dire trouble heading into the break.

That only got worse when Dries van Schalkwyk was issued with a yellow card, and seconds before half-time, Blues could go into the changing rooms with a bonus point already under their belts.

Navidi grabbed his second try of the afternoon in a breath-taking first half. He was assisted with a powerful Blues pack who forced him over, and the hosts took a 20-6 lead into the second 40.

Coming out of the other side of the break, the tale remained the system, with number five coming just minutes after the restart. Knoyle was again at the heart of it, and the ball came to Patchell who drove over before converting his own try, with a long 35 minutes ahead for Zebre. And he didn't have long to wait for number two and three.

Dan Fish broke forward for Cardiff before Patchell grabbed onto a loose ball before weaving his way through, and three minutes later the hat-trick was complete.

In what was something of a carbon copy of the previous try, Fish broke and Patchell did the rest to grab an outstanding nine minute hat-trick to add further gloss to the scoreline. The triple try hero left the pitch to a standing ovation, and soon after Zebre went over to pull a try back. After neat play, Beyers worked his way through challenges, finding enough space to grab five much needed points for his side, and he converted too when given the opportunity.

But that brief respite didn't last, as Cardiff went over for their eighth of the afternoon. Summerhill grabbed this one, his second of the afternoon, coming after big work from Tom Isaacs, Gareth Davies conversion following as Cardiff broke past the 40 point mark. Going into the final 10 minutes, you could understand if the home side would want to ease up and simply rest on what they have.

Unfortunately for the Italian side, they instead pushed on and got their ninth try on a superb opening game performance.

Turnbull found space before charging the length of the pitch unchallenged after a Zebre scrum came to nothing, and the conversion from Fish brought Blues past the half century. And then, just to compound the win, try 10 followed five minutes from time. Turnbull was again the finisher, the recipient of yet more neat passing from Blues, as the Cardiff Arms Park faithful rose to their feet to hail the perfect season opener.

Giulio Toniolatti opted to leave the field early after picking up a yellow, and that man advantage told almost immediately, Turnbull becoming the second man to grab his third try to complete the scoring. The Welsh international penetrating the Zebre defence for the final time to finally put the visitors out of their misery.

The scorers:

For Cardiff Blues:
Tries: Navidi 2, James, Summerhill 2, Patchell 3, Turnbull 3
Cons: Patchell, G Davies, Fish

For Zebre:

Try: Beyers

Con: Beyers

Pens: Azzolini 2

Yellow Cards: Van Schalkwyk, Toniolatti

Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Aled Summerhill, 13 Tom Isaacs, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Tom James, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 Manoa Vosawai, 7 Josh Navidi (c), 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 James Down, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Ethan Lewis, 1 Sam Hobbs.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Williams, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Garyn Smith.

Zebre: 15 Kayle Van Zyl, 14 Gabriele Di Giulio, 13 Tommaso Castello, 12 Mattia Bellini, 11 Michele Visentin, 10 Maicol Azzolini, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 7 Maxime Mbandà, 6 Paul Derbyshire, 5 George Biagi (c), 4 Michele Sutto, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 Tommaso D’Apice, 1 Bruno Postiglioni.
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Emiliano Coria, 19 Marco Bortolami, 20 Johan Meyer, 21 Giulio Toniolatti, 22 Ulrich Beyers, 23 Matteo Pratichetti.

Referee: Andy Brace (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Gwyn Morris (Wales), Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)