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Priestland denies Zebre at the death

Rhys Priestland struck an injury time penalty to spare the Scarlets’ blushes, earning a 16-16 draw to deny Zebre a first ever home win in the RaboDirect PRO12.

Luciano Orquera landed a 77th-minute penalty to hand Zebre a 16-13 lead over their Welsh opponents and to the brink of a first home victory in the RaboDirect PRO12 at the 14th time of asking, only for Priestland to have the final say.

They can take consolation however, in the fact that it’s the first time they have avoided defeat at the Stadio XXV Aprile.

Zebre took an early lead thanks to Gonzalo Garcia’s well-finished try and while the Scarlets pegged back their hosts with Gareth Davies’s try, the Italian side refused to give up and edged ahead with the clock ticking down.

But Priestland kept his composure, having emerged from the bench, to break Italian hearts at the death.

The Scarlets drew first blood when Steven Shingler, given the nod at fly-half in place of Priestland, opened his account with his first penalty of the night after just four minutes.

Tommaso Iannone was handed the opportunity to hit back just three minutes later, but his effort was wide of the mark and the Scarlets maintained their lead.

Not for long however, and after building up momentum, Zebre scored the first try of the match through Garcia.

A well-worked move released the Italy international out wide and he had too much speed for the covering Scarlets defenders, racing clear to dot down.

Iannone atoned for his earlier miss by expertly adding the conversion and his penalty midway through the first half handed Zebre a 10-3 lead and a sight of that elusive first home victory in the RaboDirect PRO12.

Back came the Scarlets however and five minutes later, they were level.

Davies zipped over for the try and Shingler added the extras for 10-10 and that was how it stayed until the break after the Scarlets fly-half struck the upright with his penalty attempt on 36 minutes.

The second half began in scrappy fashion with both sides unable to build any sustained periods of pressure before the Scarlets made a flurry of replacements, introducing Priestland at fly-half, Rhodri Williams, recently called up to the Wales squad, at scrum-half and Emyr Phillips at hooker.

It was Zebre who opened the scoring in the second half however, moving back ahead on 66 minutes with another Iannone penalty, taking them to within touching distance of a historic victory.

The Scarlets again turned to their replacements bench in a bid to rescue themselves, introducing Jake Ball and Romanian prop Horatiu Pungea for his debut.

But it was scrum-half Williams who made the crucial break to get Scarlets back on level terms, darting through in Zebre’s 22 before winning a penalty – duly converted by Priestland.

Zebre responded positively and stepped onto the offensive but they kicked the ball out on the full when looking dangerous, letting Scarlets off the hook.

But the host struck what appeared to be the decisive blow with just three minutes remaining – replacement Orquera with the penalty – only for Priestland to respond in kind in added time.

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