Ospreys 36 Zebre 3
Wing Eli Walker crossed for two tries as Ospreys secured a much-needed bonus point victory over Zebre at the Liberty Stadium.
The 36-3 triumph was only the Welsh region’s second win of the Guinness Pro12 campaign having lost five of their opening six games.
The hosts, who were boosted by the return of captain Alun Wyn Jones for his first appearance since the World Cup, also saw Jonathan Spratt, Josh Matavesi, Justin Tipuric and Sam Parry claim tries to go with Walker’s brace.
Dan Biggar supplied two conversions and Sam Davies one, while Zebre’s only contribution to the scoreboard was a penalty by fly-half Carlo Canna.
Zebre had gone into the game looking for their straight third win – something they have never achieved in the Pro12 – while 11th-placed Ospreys had been looking to avoid a first-ever third straight home defeat in the competition.
After a frustrating first few minutes for Ospreys, when they had a wealth of possession but could not convert into points, they went on to score three tries in the space of 15 minutes.
The first try on nine minutes was scored by centre Spratt, who showed good strength to squeeze over in the left corner after some fine link work with wing Dafydd Howells.
After Canna missed a penalty from in front of the posts for Zebre, Biggar was instrumental in creating his side’s second try with a neat chip that fell into Matavesi’s path and he ran in under the posts with Biggar adding the conversion.
Ospreys’ 12-0 lead became 17-0 when breaks by Dan Evans and Jones created space out on the right for Walker to cross.
Zebre got on the board with a Canna penalty on 34 minutes and that proved to be the last score of the half with Biggar missing a long-range penalty with the final kick before the interval.
Ospreys’ search for the bonus point try was put on hold for the early part of the second half as they were forced to do a lot of defending.
But the bonus point arrived on 57 minutes with a try for Tipuric who went over after he arrived on the shoulder of Matavesi. Biggar missed the conversion as Ospreys led 22-3.
Seven minutes later Walker crossed for his second try after breaking through midfield on a good angle. Biggar converted to extend Ospreys’ lead to 26 points.
Matters did not get much better for Zebre when their replacement Michele Visentin was shown a yellow card for an illegal tackle on 66 minutes.
And down to 14 men Zebre conceded a sixth try late on when replacement Parry squeezed over after Ospreys took a tap penalty inside the Italian’s 22.