Benetton Treviso rounded their season off on a high by defeating Italian rivals Zebre 19-3 and secure Champions Cup rugby next season.
With both sides tied on 19 points going into round 22 of the Guinness PRO12, victory for either would have earned a spot playing among the continent’s best sides in the next campaign.
And it proved to be Treviso who came out on top as Marco Fuser’s early try set them on the way before a faultless kicking display from Ian McKinley secured the win.
Zebre head coach Gianluca Guidi made three changes for the game with captain George Biagi returning to take his place in the second row.
But any hopes of winning a third successive home game in a row in the Guinness PRO12 for the first time ever took an early blow when Fuser opened the scoring for the visitors with McKinley adding the extras for a 7-0 lead.
The pouring rain was making playing conditions difficult but Zebre were able to reduce the deficit through Carlo Canna’s penalty on 16 minutes.
There was another chance for Zebre to add to their tally five minutes later but Canna’s penalty came back off the posts.
Mistakes were creeping in from both sides but McKinley was able to hold his nerve from 22 metres out on 34 minutes to take the lead out to 10-3.
They were dealt a blow two minutes before the break though when Fuser was shown a yellow for an illegal tackle.
But the hosts were unable to add to their tally before the interval, with Canna off target with his penalty.
And it was Treviso who pulled further in front early in the second half as two penalties from McKinley within seven minutes of each other took the score out to 16-3.
Zebre were ringing the changes to try and bring about a reversal in fortunes but a third second-half McKinley penalty added another three points to the visitors lead on 53 minutes.
Zebre were not giving up without a fight and kept preserving with the pressure telling when Treviso’s Tiziano Pasquali received a yellow on 74 minutes.
But the visitors defence held firm to record the win and ensure they finish the season in tenth place with Zebre 12th.
The Guinness PRO12 Final takes place on May 27 at Aviva Stadium, Dublin.
Fans can guarantee their place by booking their tickets via www.ticketmaster.ie
Further information: www.pro12rugby.com/final