Zebre secured their first ever PRO12 win in controversial circumstances at Cardiff Arms Park, eventually running out 30-25 winners over the Cardiff Blues
It was a historic moment for the Italian side and after outscoring the Blues by three tries to one, you could say it was a deserved victory.
Mauro Bergamasco, David Odiete and Brendon Leonard had scored the tries to put them into the lead but the manner of victory left a sour taste.
With the Blues pounding the Zebre line in search of a match-winning late try, replacement prop Luca Redolfini was yellow carded. With the Italians down to 14, the Blues sensed blood but when a scrum was called, Dario Chistolini returned to the field to complete the front row formalities. Vitally though, no other Zebre player seemed to leave the field, meaning that in the final seconds, they had 15 men on the pitch instead of being a man light.
The situation was eventually resolved but in the final attack, Leigh Halfpenny was penalised for holding on and the final whistle went.
An early try from Daf Hewitt, converted by Halfpenny, had given the Blues a dream start but the rest of the first half didn't go to plan. Zebre soon levelled things up with a try from Bergamasco with Luciano Orquera converting and kicking two penalties to one from Halfpenny.
The second half saw Halfpenny and Orquera engage in a personal kicking battle but scores from Odiete and New Zealander Leonard put Zebre in command. And although the Blues gave it everything late on, Zebre secured victory. The manner in which they did so though, was contentious to say the least.
The first half was only a couple of minutes old when the Blues, who had not scored a try in either of their two matches so far this season, moved into the lead. Rhys Patchell was the creator, his clean line break from an Owen Williams pass seeing him get on the outside of the Zebre defence. Hewitt was the man in support, the centre given an easy run to the line.
On his return to regional rugby, Halfpenny added the conversion but it wasn't long before Zebre replied. Wing Dion Berryman went close on a couple of occasions before Italian flanker Bergamasco crossed following a powerful rolling maul. Orquera converted and after 15 minutes, the sides were back level.
Zebre's attacking threat with ball in hand looked to be surprising the Blues and after Hewitt's early try, the first half was an even affair. A penalty from Orquera put the Italian side into the lead but it was the Blues who were seeing more of the territory. Phil Davies' side camped themselves in the Zebre half and although Halfpenny surprisingly put his first penalty effort wide, a second kick was more successful. A 10-10 score line certainly reflected the state of the game, Zebre more than in the contest. And when Orquera added a second penalty a couple of minutes before the break, his low, scudded kick meant it was the Italian side who went into the interval ahead.
Halfpenny levelled the scores at the start of the second half but the Blues were still struggling to assert their authority. Orquera regained the lead for the Italian side with a superb drop goal, prompting Davies to make a number of changes. Lloyd Williams and Matthew Rees were two of the men to be introduced, the Wales internationals entering the fray seconds after Halfpenny had kicked his third penalty.
Their introduction seemed to bring about an improvement in performance, Lloyd Williams injecting some much needed tempo around the ruck. A second try failed to arrive though and it was Zebre who struck next. When the try came, it was a simple score with influential scrum half Leonard making space and popping the ball up for Odiete to stroll over. Orquera converted leaving the Blues to chase the game.
The metronomic Halfpenny closed the gap to keep the Blues in it but with 10 minutes remaining, the home side were a point behind. It was a deficit they never recovered from, Leonard capping a superb display with an individual effort to score what proved to be the vital try.
Halfpenny's sixth penalty made it a nervy finish but despite being reduced to 14, Zebre survived what were a farcical last few minutes.