Italian side Zebre shocked Cardiff Blues by claiming their first RaboDirect Pro12 victory in 25 attempts, but the 30-25 win ended in controversy with the visitors appearing to have an extra man on the field for a passage of play in the closing minute.
With replacement prop Luca Redolfini in the sin bin, Dario Chistolini was called back on to complete the front row for a scrum, without anyone making way for him until the vital phase was over. That said, the visitors, inspired by New Zealand scrum-half Brendon Leonard, were well worth their success, crossing for three tries to the Blues’ second-minute effort, made by fly-half Rhys Patchell for centre Dafydd Hewitt, Leigh Halfpenny converting. Halfpenny, returning to action for the first time since his Player of the Series contribution to the British and Irish Lions’ triumph in Australia, kicked 20 points, but it was to no avail.
Zebre gained territory through runs by pacy Kiwi winger Dion Berryman and Leonard, before the pack heaved flanker Mauro Bergamasco across the line. Luciano Orquera converted and then put the visitors ahead with a penalty from wide out. Halfpenny missed a long-range attempt to equalise, but made amends with an easier chance three minutes later, only for a further Orquera penalty to restore Zebre’s advantage before the interval.
The Blues, who had never lost at home to an Italian team, showed more urgency on the resumption, Halfpenny slotting over from 40 yards, only for Orquera, having gone close with another penalty, to drop a goal from in front of the posts. But the home full-back struck a superb penalty from wide out to level the scores once more.
Halfpenny kicked his fourth penalty before Leonard sent Zebre wing David Odiete in for a try which Orquera improved.
Halfpenny cut the deficit to a single point before the visitors escaped downfield for Leonard to finish a flowing move. Orquera’s conversion extended the gap to two scores.
For the first time both Italian sides won in the same round of matches as Munster were knocked off the top of the table as they were upset 29-19 by Benetton Treviso in Italy.
Newport Gwent Dragons continued their great start to the RaboDirect Pro12 season by securing a 23-16 win in a titanic Welsh derby with the Scarlets at Rodney Parade.
A fantastic match saw Dragons prop Phil Price, on his 50th game for the side, and full-back Dan Evans cross for the home region while centre Scott Williams got a cracker in reply.
In England, Worcester crashed to their third successive Aviva Premiership defeat of the season after a Chris Robshaw-inspired Quins coasted home 37-13 at Sixways.
Danny Cipriani came off the bench to inspire Sale to a narrow 26-22 home victory over Wasps as the Sharks withstood a late fightback. The controversial stand-off replaced Nick Macleod after 19 minutes and racked up 21 points to ensure his side had a big enough lead to defend.