The Ospreys were targeting a fast start after stuttering out of the gate a year ago and they did just that with a brilliant 59-5 Guinness PRO12 win over Zebre at the Liberty Stadium with a hat-trick from the most unlikely of sources.
Sam Parry bookended the first half with two tries from mauls, as the Welsh side wrapped up a bonus point before the break, completing his treble early in the second half.
And the Welsh team managed eight tries in all, as Ben John got a second-half double in a brilliant display in Swansea.
It was Sam Davies who opened the home side’s account, slotting an early penalty for Steve Tandy’s men, and they quickly extended that lead.
Turning to their maul, which would be a key feature of the first half, hooker Parry was on hand to crash over, with Davies making it two kicks from two to stretch the lead to ten.
The second try wasn’t long coming, and this time it was the athleticism of second row Lloyd Ashley that was the key. After Zebre had rushed up in defence, Josh Matavesi took advantage to stride forward.
Although the covering defence got back to him, Ashley was inside and after a quick turn found himself in open field and raced 20 yards to score. From the touchline Davies continued his fine kicking evening with the conversion.
It was in danger of getting away from Zebre when Ospreys scored a third try, Ashley Beck slipping out of the tackle of Giulio Bisegni to cross, and Davies making it 24-0 with the extras.
But they finally got some possession and were rewarded for it just after the half-hour.
Having been held up just short with one rolling maul, they went back to that tactic from an attacking lineout and Tommaso D’Apice powered over. Edoardo Padovani’s conversion was sliced wide.
Still, Parry had the final say of the half, as a second Ospreys rolling maul ended with him bursting through the middle and over the line.
Davies converted to make it 31-5 at the break, and with a tactic that was working they stuck at it in the second.
Parry was again the man at the back of a powerful maul, and dotted down for the first hat-trick of the Guinness PRO12 season on the very first evening.
Davies converted once again, and then played his part in setting up John for the sixth, with the centre strolling through in midfield.
Zebre were very much on the back foot, and their cause wasn’t helped when their indiscipline led to a yellow card for replacement Tommaso Boni, leaving them with 14 just after the hour.
The Ospreys made them pay, with a seventh try coming through Dafydd Howells after he showed his pace with the Zebre defence scrambling to make it a half-century.
And John finished the game in style with his second, converted by Davies to seal a dream opening performance from the Welsh region.
Guinness PRO12 Final 2017 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 adults and €5 child, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie. For further information visit http://www.pro12rugby.com/final
3 Sep 2016
1 Sep 2016