The first matches in the “High Performance project” between sub-national Italian and Spanish franchises got underway last weekend, in a competition created jointly with World Rugby and the Spanish and Italian Rugby Federations.
The project is very similar to the Celtic Challenge and will see Spanish teams Iberians Sitges and Iberians Valencia took on Italy’s Benetton Rugby and Zebre Parma respectively
Iberians Valencia took an early 3-0, thanks to a penalty shot converted by Blanca Ruiz and despite being overpowered up front at times and the injury of Lucía Díaz lead 6-5 at the break.
In the second half, Zebre Parma's increased possession, coupled with more expansive rugby and speed, tipped the balance their favour of the Italians thanks, in part, to a great performance from Francesca Granzotto. Kiara Expósito's try in the 80th minute closed the final score at 13-19 in favoour of the Emilia-Romagna franchise.
In Sitges, the match was a closer affair. Micol Cavina and Beatrice Campomagi (0-7) would get the first points of the match for Benetton after 35 minutes, but 5 minutes later referee María Latos awarded a penalty try in favour of Iberians Sitges after a great maul (7-7).
In the second forty minutes followed the same script with Aura Muzzo scoring in the 52nd minute (7-12) and Martina Márquez's scoring 10 minutes later (12-12). Vittoria Ostuni would put an end to that equality in the final minutes of the match to tip the final score at 12-19 for the Italian team.
The teams will meet again in Italy in February. Parma will host Iberians Sitges (February 10, Parma) before Benetton Treviso take on Iberians Valencia (February 11, Treviso).