Pat Howard’s second try in two Guinness PRO12 games was enough for Newport Gwent Dragons to secure a narrow win over a battling Zebre side at Rodney Parade.
Kingsley Jones welcomed back Hallam Amos and Tyler Morgan after losing 29-8 away to Ulster on opening night, but it was Howard’s combination with barrelling lock Rynard Landman and Sarel Pretorious that ultimately proved vital.
Zebre were much improved from their 59-5 loss to Ospreys last week and Carlo Canna struck with a penalty early on, but Howard’s finish followed by two Nick Macleod’s penalties were enough to secure a first win of the Guinness PRO12 season for Jones’ men.
Dragons will take confidence from grinding out victory before a tough task up next against Rassie Erasmus’ resurgent Munster side, while Gianluca Guidi will surely be happy with the way his men responded to last week’s heavy loss by securing a first point of the season away from home.
It was a bright start from the hosts, but Zebre fought back into the side with Canna on hand to slot over their first away Guinness PRO12 points with the boot since January.
A bust from lock Landman paved the way for Dragons to score the first try of the game after 17 minutes, the powerful forward offloading to Pretorious who shifted the ball for Pat Howard to canter home.
MacLeod missed the conversion but made amends ten minutes later with a well-struck penalty that moved Dragons 8-3 ahead before his second three-pointer of the night further extended the lead.
Canna struck with a timely penalty just before half-time to bring Zebre within a score at the break, the 24-year-old pivot then missed a chance to bring the Italians within two points five minutes into the second half.
Neither side could really gain a foothold in the second half and with both sides slipping to 14 men at stages and defences continued to dominate throughout.