The Ospreys got the new Guinness PRO12 season off to a flying start, scoring four tries in each half to record their biggest ever win over Zebre.
Sam Parry entered the record books, scoring three tries to become the first ever forward to score hat-trick for the Ospreys, while Lloyd Ashley also achieved a first, when he went over for his first try for the region in his 67th appearance.
Ashley Beck marked his return from injury with his first try since May 2014, and the rout was completed late on with tries from replacements Ben John (2) and Dafydd Howells. Meanwhile, last season’s PRO12 Young Player of the Year, Sam Davies, continued where he left off, enjoying a 100 per record with the boot, kicking an early penalty and eight conversions.
Davies got the scoreboard moving in the fifth minute with a straightforward penalty from in front of the posts, and within just a couple of minutes they had moved it up to double figures following the first try of the new Guinness PRO12 season.
It was an eye catching run from Dan Evans that put the Ospreys on the front foot, the full back carrying deep into Zebre territory, before skipper Tom Habberfield went for the line, only to be hauled down just short by Gabriele Di Giulio.
The Italians were penalised for an offence on the floor, the Ospreys went to the corner, and after Rory Thornton soared high to claim the lineout the pack rumbled over the line with ease, Parry dotting down before Davies slotted the conversion.
With the early exchanges being played out almost exclusively in the Zebre half, the second try came in the 13th minute. Ashley collected the ball off Josh Matavesi and shrugged off Guglielmo Palazzani before racing over from 20m out to score in the corner despite the efforts of Di Giulio. Davies’ conversion was good and the hosts led already led 17-0.
The Ospreys dominance continued and it was Beck who went over for try number three, dancing his way out of the tackle and jinking over from close range for his first try since the final day of the 2013/14 season, Davies again adding the extras.
We had to wait until the 31st minute before Zebre got any territory, a penalty allowing them to go to the corner where they were frustrated by some great defensive work from the Ospreys, not only repelling two attempts at the maul but eventually being awarded a scrum on their own line.
However, Ospreys indiscipline meant that they were almost immediately back in the same position and this time there was no stopping the Italians as Tommaso D’Apice was awarded the try by the TMO after the Zebre pack powered over. Edoardo Padovani pulled his conversion wide of the near post and, with five minutes until the break the score was 24-5.
The response from the Ospreys was perfect, a scrum penalty seeing Davies put the Ospreys into the corner on the left and, just as it was at the start of the half, it was at the end, Parry with the touchdown from another lineout drive.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 31 ZEBRE 5
Some early Zebre possession in the Ospreys 22 following the restart came to nothing and it wasn’t long until we were back in familiar territory as, unbelievably, six minutes after the restart it was another lineout drive that resulted in Parry grounding the ball for his third of the night.
It was the ninth ever Ospreys hat-trick, with Parry joining a select band of players including Shane Williams, Tommy Bowe, Nikki Walker and Gavin Henson.
Davies kept his 100 per cent record with the boot and the Ospreys’ continued dominance saw try number six going to replacement, Ben John, the centre running a great line to take the ball off the outside half and racing clear, sliding over the line to score, with the conversion taking the Ospreys 40 points clear with a quarter of the match remaining.
Zebre found themselves a man short in the 67th minute, the officials patience running out after a series of offences, Tommaso Boni heading to the sinbin after killing the ball on halfway.
John was then agonisingly close to his second following some patient approach play that took the Ospreys deep inside the Zebre 22, Rhys Webb popping the ball up off the floor into the centre as he burst into the line and it was only a last ditch tackle from Di Giulio that forced a knock on under the posts.
It looked like the seventh try would never come, the Ospreys guilty of some wasteful play on more than one occasion – however a smart Evans break from inside his own half carried the hosts 40m upfield and, spotting acres of space behind the defence, he put a lovely weighted kick through allowing Howells to win the race to score, converted by Davies.
There was still time for one final score as Justin Tipuric fed John for his second, Davies making it nine from nine to round off a successful evening for the Ospreys, who travel to face reigning champions Connacht in Galway next Saturday before welcoming Benetton Treviso to the Liberty Stadium a week later.