The Ospreys continued their winning run with a controlled performance to secure what was, in the end, a comfortable victory in their first ever game against Italian side Zebre after surviving a third quarter fight back from the hosts to eventually pull away.
Dan Biggar had a massive influence on the game, scoring 24 points including a late try – his first of the season, after first half touchdowns from Richard Fussell and Jonathan Thomas had set the Ospreys on their way.
On a gorgeous autumn evening the stage was perfect for rugby, although there was a late change on the bench for the Ospreys, Richard Hibbard pulling out and therefore missing the chance to make his 150th appearance for the region. Matthew Dwyer of Bridgend Ravens took his place on the bench.
The opening quarter was all about the boot, Biggar missing a penalty in the third minute, before slotting over three successful kicks in the first 20 minutes, a reply from Gonzalo Garcia making it 9-3 to the Ospreys.
Zebre’s scrum-half Alberto Chillon found himself in the sinbin on 24 minutes after an infringement at the breakdown, and the Ospreys took full advantage with their first try just five minutes later.
It came as a result of some patient, intelligent probing by the Ospreys, working hard to stretch the Zebre defence before working the ball out wide with good hands to allow Fussell to go over in the corner for his second try in as many games.
Just after the half hour Garcia had a chance to reduce the deficit but his penalty attempt was off target, before the Ospreys responded with their second try, through Jonathan Thomas.
Ryan Bevington was the catalyst, winning turnover ball deep in Zebre territory, sparking a move that eventually left Jonathan Thomas with a simple walk-in for his first try of the season.
It went unconverted, and three points from Zebre fullback Daniel Halangahu at the death meant that the Ospreys lead at the break was 15 points.
HALF-TIME: ZEBRE 6 OSPREYS 21
The Italians came out fired up after the restart and worked themselves a try within minutes, prop Luca Redolfini going over from close range, Halangahu converting.
The Ospreys were finding themselves under increasing pressure and were grateful that Garcia was off-target for the second time 10 minutes into the second half.
Just three minutes later, Halangahu’s penalty brought Zebre to within a try of their opponents for the first time of over half an hour and the Italians were fancying their chances of a shock result at this point.
However, led well by Biggar, the Ospreys upped their game in the final quarter and were able to put some daylight between themselves and their opponents.
Two Biggar penalties around the hour mark moved the scoreboard to 27-16 in his team’s favour then a second Zebre yellow for a foul at the contact area, this time to centre Matteo Pratichetti, saw the hosts reduced to 14 for 10 minutes once again.
The Ospreys eventually made the game completely safe with seven minutes to go, a great break from Eli Walker up the wing causing the Zebre defence problems before he offloaded inside to the supporting Biggar who strolled home from 20 metres out, his conversion rounding off a decent night’s work for the men in black.