Dragons hold off Zebre
PRO14 REPORT: Jordan Williams crossed for a brace as Dragons beat Zebre 26-18 at Rodney Parade to claim their first win of the season.
Jamie Roberts and Elliot Dee also dotted down to help the hosts earn a bonus-point victory which could have been more comprehensive had Sam Davies not endured an uncharacteristically wayward evening off the tee, missing all four conversion attempts.
Federico Mori and Giulio Bisegni crossed for Zebre but the Italians fell short in their attempt to replicate their memorable victory in the corresponding fixture last season.
After a cagey opening 10 minutes, the deadlock was broken when Dragons made their first foray into the Zebre 22.
A trademark Roberts crash ball move laid the foundations, with the centre bulldozing towards the line and drawing in tacklers. Quick ball allowed the hosts to capitalise on the space out that had been created and Williams was the beneficiary, skipping round a tackle and dotting down.
The roles were reversed in the 25th minute as Dragons went over for their second score. This time it was Williams who set it up with a fine run from the halfway line to within two metres; when the ball was recycled, Roberts was on hand to barrel over.
Davies hit the post with each of his two conversions but his opposite number Carlo Canna was straight into the groove from his first opportunity off the tee on the half-hour mark, slotting over a routine penalty to get Zebre on the scoreboard.
Dragons hit back and a powerful rolling maul led to their third try, hooker Dee applying the finishing touch, but Davies’ conversion slid wide and Dragons were then stunned by a Zebre score in added time at the end of the first half.
The hosts were camped inside the visiting 22 pushing for their bonus-point score following Mattia Bellini’s yellow card but Dee’s attempted grubber kick was charged down and Zebre hacked the ball clear.
Mori won the race and touched down, with Canna adding the extras to ensure just five points separated the sides at the break.
Canna was equally accurate with a long-range penalty shortly after the restart to narrow the deficit to two but Dragons gave themselves breathing space with their bonus-point score.
Roberts and Williams were again influential, exchanging passes once an overlap had been created to send the fullback over for his second try of the evening.
Davies struck the upright for the third time as he looked to add the extras, leaving Zebre within a converted score of levelling, but the flyhalf made no mistake with a 66th-minute penalty which put Dragons 23-13 ahead.
He added another with six minutes remaining but Dragons dealt poorly with the restart to allow Zebre the opportunity to mount late pressure.
They took advantage through their captain Besigni, who found a great line to score on his 100th appearance for the club, but the conversion was missed to deny the visitors a losing bonus point.
Tries: J Williams 2, Roberts, Dee
Pens: Davies 2
Tries: Mori, Bisegni
Pens: Canna 2
Dragons: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Jonah Holmes, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Rhodri Williams (captain), 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 Taine Basham, 6 Harrison Keddie, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Joe Davies, 3 Leon Brown, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Brok Harris.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Greg Bateman, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Joe Maksymiw, 20 Ben Fry, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Josh Lewis, 23 Adam Warren.
Zebre: 15 Jacopo Trulla, 14 Junior Laloifi, 13 Giulio Bisegni (captain), 12 Federico Mori, 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Guglielmo Palazzani, 8 David Sisi, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Maxime Mbandà, 5 Ian Nagle, 4 Leonard Krumov, 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Marco Manfredi, 1 Daniele Rimpelli.
Replacements: 16 Massimo Ceciliani, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Giosuè Zilocchi, 19 Cristian Stoian, 20 Mick Kearney, 21 Nicolò Casilio, 22 Antonio Rizzi, 23 Lorenzo Masselli.
Referee: Chris Busby
Assistant referees: Adam Jones, Craig Evans
TMO: Sean Brickell