The Ospreys bounced back to winning ways with an emphatic victory over Zebre at the Liberty Stadium on Friday night.
They had to be patient, with just a seven point lead inside the final eight minutes of the first half, but the Ospreys were always in control and secured the bonus point with 11 minutes to play, two late efforts from the forwards giving the scoreline a pleasing shine.
Francois Brummer had an early shot at the posts for Zebre, just a minute in, but his long-range effort from close to halfway was always wide of the target.
The opening quarter was a scrappy affair, neither side really able to get a foothold in the game, but a moment of quality 16 minutes in almost saw the Ospreys creating something, the backs combining well to create an extra man on the left but Dan Evans’ couldn’t find Luke Morgan’s hands with the final pass.
Just a couple of minutes later, a good scrum on the Zebre 10m line gave the Ospreys a platform to attack from, George North pulled down just a couple of metres short by James Elliott. The Ospreys kept up the pressure, a series of penalties deep inside the 22 seeing them opting to go for a scrum and they were rewarded when referee Cwengile Jadezweni, on his Liberty debut, ran under the posts to indicate the seven points for the home team.
The Ospreys were on top now and try number two arrived nine minutes later through newly capped Welsh international, Luke Morgan. With a penalty advantage after Zebre had illegally brought down the Ospreys maul it was spun out the left where Morgan was lurking and the winger produced an incredible finish under pressure from Elliott, the TMO only needing a cursory glance of the replay to confirm the score.
The angle was too much for Sam Davies, his conversion attempt pushed across the face of the posts and wide, so the Ospreys led 12-0.
Davies added three points just a couple of minutes later, a straightforward penalty in front of the posts as Zebre’s infringments mounted up.
With the clock just about reaching half-time the visitors were reduced to 14, Massimo Ceciliani shown yellow after taking out Aled Davies at a ruck. Time was up but the Ospreys pushed towards the line, the forwards combining well before scrum-half Davies was stopped close to the line, Alun Wyn Jones knocking on as he looked to pick up and stretch over.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 15-0 ZEBRE
Looking to make the most of the extra man the Ospreys piled the pressure on in the opening minutes of the second half, 21 phases of pressure inside the Zebre 22 eventually seeing Justin Tipuric driving Alun Wyn over from close range but a long study of the replays failed to see a grounding, and the decision was scrum to the Ospreys.
The Ospreys were dominant at the set piece and the ball was moved wide again, Morgan looking to squeeze over in the corner where, this time, the replays clearly showed he was in touch.
The TMO was the busiest man on the field and he was called on again, the third time inside the first eight minutes of the half, to correctly rule out an Aled Davies score, for a clear forward pass from AWJ to Morgan in the build-up.
The try finally arrived in the 57th minute, with Zebre back up to 15, another long spell of pressure through almost 20 phases eventually seeing space created out wide, Sam Davies floating a long miss pass to give Morgan a straightforward finish on the right for his second of the night.
The bonus point arrived in the 69th minute and it was a hat-trick for Morgan, the winger haring over from 40m out after collecting Sam Davies’ perfectly executed cross kick from just outside the Ospreys 22m. The conversion from Davies was good and it was a 29-point lead going into the final 10.
As the clock ran down the scoreline was embellished thanks to two tries that owed more to perspiration than inspiration, Scott Otten and Olly Cracknell driving over either side of a yellow card for Zebre’s Tommaso Boni for taking Sam Cross around the neck, James Hook this time with the conversions.