Guinness Pro12: Zebre 26-41 Cardiff Blues
|Zebre (15) 26|
|Tries: Leonard, Ferrarini,|
|Con: Orquera Pens: Orquera, Haimona 2|
|Cardiff Blues (17) 41|
|Tries: Patchell, L Williams, Fish, Cuthbert, Dacey|
|Con: Patchell 5 Pens: Patchell 2|
Cardiff Blues began their Pro12 campaign with a bonus-point win in a scrappy encounter with Zebre in Parma.
Tries from Rhys Patchell, Lloyd Williams, and Dan Fish came before the break with Brendan Leonard and Filippo Ferrarini replying.
Home wing Dion Berryman crossed before Dan Fish, Alex Cuthbert and Kristian Dacey crossed after the break.
Outstanding Patchell kicked 16 points while Luciano Orquera and Kelly Haimona kicked 11 Zebre points between them.
Adam Jones made his competitive Blues debut at tight-head prop while Sam Warburton was back to full fitness in the back-row after shoulder surgery.
The Welsh region had to overcome the home side's determination to add to the historic tournament double they achieved in their inaugural 2013-14 season.
But Patchell's early try provided a confidence-boosting start for the visitors and they ended victorious.
The score came from a well-executed attack. Sam Warburton's initial break was followed up by wing Owen Jenkins, whose pass gave Patchell the chance to race over.
Aspiring Wales fly-half Patchell added the conversion.
Mark Hammett's side went down to 14 men when Samoan lock Filo Paulo tackled Zebre scrum-half Brendon Leonard when without the ball.
Orquera punished that 12th-minute offence with a penalty, but even without a full complement of players, Blues stretched their lead.
Dan Fish's lofted punt was gathered by Patchell and after Cory Allen ran wide, scrum-half Williams took the scoring pass. Patchell converted.
Leonard capitalised on Zebre scrum, his angled run ensuring full-back Fish was unable to halt his progress.
The hosts took the lead for the first time when flanker Ferrarini was driven over from close range and Orquera converted.
But when presented with the chance to kick for goal from eight metres inside his own half, Patchell's long-distance scoring prowess was underlined.
His effort gave Blues a 17-15 half-time lead and showed Hammett and impending arrival from New Zealand Gareth Anscombe that Patchell is a force to be reckoned with.
The visitors survived a scare soon after the restart, but Italian video referee Stefano Penne eventually ruled that number eight Samuela Vunisa had not touched down after a botched Blues line-out.
However, Zebre's threat from close-range scrums was underlined when Vunisa combined with Leonard to send Berryman over.
Blues responded with a superb try. Allen, Warburton and Matthew Rees were involved before centre Gavin Evans put Fish into space.
The full-back's pace and swerve took him on a 35-metre run to the line and Patchell converted.
Warburton, Allen and Patchell were again involved to allow the latter to free Cuthbert and the Wales and British and Irish Lions wing's finishing power was too much for home full-back Hennie Danniller.
Patchell's conversion was followed by replacement Haimona's penalty.
And after Blues replacement wing Gareth Davies was sin-binned for killing possession at a ruck, Zebre maintained the pressure for Haimona to kick his second penalty.
But the visitors again reclaimed the initiative when replacement hooker Kristian Dacey powered over from close range.
Patchell converted and added a second long-range penalty to extend their lead to 15 points and that is how it stayed.
Zebre: Hendrik Daniller; Dion Berryman, Mirco Bergamasco, Gonzalo Garcia, Leonardo Sarto; Luciano Orquera, Brendon Leonard; Matias Aguero, Andrea Manici, Dario Chistolini, Quintin Geldenhuys (capt), George Biagi, Filippo Ferrarini, Andries Van Schalkwyk, Samuela Vunisa.
Replacements: Oliviero Fabiani, Andrea De Marchi, Luciano Leibson, Andries Ferreira, Filippo Cristiano, Guglielmo Palazzani, Kelly Haimona, Edoardo Padovani.
Cardiff Blues: Dan Fish; Alex Cuthbert, Cory Allen, Gavin Evans, Owen Jenkins; Rhys Patchell, Lloyd Williams; Sam Hobbs, Matthew Rees (capt), Adam Jones, Chris Dicomidis, Filo Paulo, Josh Turnbull, Sam Warburton, Manoa Vosawai.
Replacements: Kristian Dacey, Thomas Davies, Craig Mitchell, Macauley Cook, Josh Navidi, Lewis Jones, Gareth Davies, Dafydd Hewitt.
Referee: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Matteo Liperini, Filippo Bertelli (Italy)
Citing commissioner: Roberto Carra (Italy)
TMO: Stefano Penne (Italy)