It was very much a game of two halves at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi on Friday night as the Ospreys came from behind to record another bonus point, their 13th consecutive victory in all competitions.
The Ospreys started sluggishly and found themselves trailing by 10 points in as many minutes, and only registered their first points in the final minute of the first half, via an Ashley Beck try, before a quick-fire Dan Evans hat-trick saw the bonus point in the bag within 10 minutes of the restart. Sam Parry and Dafydd Howells also touched down, while Luke Price marked his first ever PRO12 start with five conversions.
Just three minutes in it was Gugleilmo Palazzani who opened the scoring with a penalty after the Ospreys were pinged at the scrum and five minutes later the hosts were celebrating the first try.
Centre Tomasso Boni then went over from close range after the powerful figure of Derick Minnie wreaked havoc at a ruck in the Ospreys 22, stealing the ball and bowling over Tom Habberfield.
Palazzani added the extras from the left with ease and the scoreboard read 10-0.
The Ospreys looked to respond positively and good work from Adam Beard at a Zebre throw inside their 22 resulted in an Ospreys scrum, where the hosts were pinged for an early engagement. A Dan Baker tap and go meant the Ospreys were pressing on the Zebre line but Beard lost possession in the tackle as looked to force his way over.
Although the Ospreys were starting to enjoy greater possession and territory it was all very sloppy, the ball being coughed up cheaply with Zebre looking comfortable defensively.
Palazzani missed with a long range penalty attempt after the Ospreys were pinged for crossing as Evans looked to make inroads into the Zebre half.
The Ospreys finally got on the board at theinal play of the half. With a penalty on halfway Price went to the corner. Attempts to get the maul going were thwarted by the Zebre defence so play was moved infield and then switched back to the right where the Ospreys had a man over out wide in Ben John. However, he wasn’t needed as Beck threw a dummy and cut through the gap to score, Price converting to bring the half to an end.
HALF-TIME: ZEBRE 10 OSPREYS 7
As sloppy as the Ospreys had been in the first half, they were as clinical in the opening minutes of the second as they blew Zebre away with three quick fire tries.
After a long period of prolonged pressure and multiple phases as the Ospreys probed left and right, they eventually created space for full-back Evans out wide to score, Price converting.
Then, a break up the right from Sam Underhill took the Ospreys over halfway, before the backs and forwards combined well to keep the move going. Eventually it was good work by Kieron Fonotia that created the score, the centre stepping a Zebre defender before feeding Evans. Price’s conversion meant the Ospreys led by 11 points with 47 minutes played.
Zebre were then reduced to 14 when a yellow card was shown to Lloyd Greef for killing ball on line to prevent a quick recycle after a John break up right, Underhill brought down short.
The Ospreys went to line out again, the ball was moved wide at speed and, again, great work by Fonotia saw him combine with Evanswho went over for his hat-trick, a try that went unvonverted.
No sooner were Zebre back to 15 there was another yellow, Gideon Koegelenberg bringing down the maul, and another try, Parry going over at the back of the maul for his seventh of the season, Price converting again.
Then, with six to play, the third yellow card of the match was shown to hooker Oliviero Fabiani for a deliberate knock-on to prevent an Ospreys counter attack.
The final say went to Howells, a fine sole effort as he cut a great angle on an arcing run to the corner, Price’s fifth conversion rounding off what was, in the end, a fine win for the Ospreys.
Next up is a huge game at the Liberty Stadium is a huge game next Saturday against PRO12 leaders Munster, who are one point ahead of the Ospreys.