The Ospreys bounced back to winning way at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday afternoon, running in six tries as they defeated Zebre to move up to eighth in the PRO12 table.
It was never in doubt after Jonathan Spratt went over for the first try of the day in only the ninth minute, before Josh Matavesi, Justin Tipuric, Sam Davies and one in each half from Eli Walker ensured a maximum haul.
Before kick-off the two teams lined up to pay their respects on Remembrance weekend, but once the whistle went to start the action following an impeccably observed silence it was the Ospreys making the early running.
They first try saw Spratt going over in the corner after full back Dan Evans had made the original break, running Guglielmo Palazanni’s clearing kick back deep into Zebre territory.
After going through several phases to pull defenders out of position it was Spratt’s arcing run that did the damage and the centre then exchanged passes with Dafydd Howells to score in the corner. It was a difficult conversion from the left touchline and the angle proved just too much for Dan Biggar, his kick striking the far post.
Carlo Canna should have got Zebre’s first points a couple of minutes later after Ospreys interference at the ruck but his penalty attempt from in front of the posts never looked like finding the target.
The Ospreys then stretched their lead through a Josh Matavesi try, the Fijian reading Biggar’s delightful little chip perfectly, the bounce allowing him to collect the ball in his stride and race though unchecked from the 10m line to score under the posts, the conversion a straightforward one, taking the score to 12-0.
It was all Ospreys and when the inevitable third try arrived on 25 minutes it was a cracker, and a real team effort at that. A quick tap and go on his own 10m line by Justin Tipuric put his team very much on the front foot, and with Dan Evans and Alun Wyn Jones both prominent, carrying strongly, it was Eli Walker who finished off the move in the right hand corner.
Again, Biggar missed the conversion, but the Ospreys were looking comfortable with a 17-point lead.
Walker almost grabbed his second just a couple of minutes later thanks to the awareness of Brendon Leonard, the scrum half spotting the space out wide and putting through a lovely weighted dink to the corner but the bounce beat the winger with the line in his sight, just falling the wrong way into touch.
Zebre got their first points on the half hour, Canna making no mistake in front of the posts this time after Ospreys interference at the ruck.
The final play of the half saw Biggar taking the opportunity to go for goal from close to half way but his kick didn’t have the distance, his third miss of the afternoon, so the Ospreys went in with a 14 point lead.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 17 ZEBRE 3
Some early pressure from the visitors following the restart, hooker Andrea Manici with the original half break, saw the Ospreys having to defend their line doggedly through nine phases of pick and drive. They managed to keep the line intact, eventually winning a turnover to allow Matavesi to clear from behind his own posts.
After a fairly low key third quarter where, despite their dominance, the Ospreys never really looked like adding to their score, the fourth try and bonus point finally arrived just before the hour mark.
Again it came from a lovely spell of Ospreys play, Evans, Dafydd Howells, Biggar and Matavesi all taking turns to carry well before the centre beat his man and released Tipuric on the right, the flanker sliding in to score.
The usually reliable Biggar was having a rare off day with the boot and the conversion attempt proved to be his fourth miss of the day.
Just a couple of minutes later there was a fifth try for the Ospreys. After an attempted lineout drive close to the Zebre line was repelled, the half backs combined before Biggar’s delayed pass drew the covering defender, allowing Walker to cut a great angle in the line and score. Biggar’s conversion took the score to 29-3.
Zebre’s woes got worse when their replacement Michele Sutto was yellow carded for a no-arms, late tackle in midfield.
The game was won and you could see confidence flooding back through the Ospreys.
The final score of the day came after an eye-catching break from Sam Davies saw the replacement fly-half carry 50m upfield to put his team in scoring territory. With an offside advantage in their favour, Davies found his route to the line blocked by the referee, saw play was brought back for the penalty, from where it was Parry who eventually drove over from close range.
Davies converted and although Zebre pressed the Ospreys line in the closing minutes looking for a consolation try there was to be no more scoring as the Ospreys kept their line intact before celebrating a much needed win.