Zebre break their duck
PRO14 REPORT: Zebre ran in five tries against Dragons as the Italians ended their 20-game winless run and secured their first victory of the season at Rodney Parade.
Jamie Elliott, Edoardo Padovani, Tommaso Boni, Charlie Walker and Maxime Mbanda all crossed for the visitors to give them their first Championship win since October 2018.
Carlo Canna also added 12 points from the tee for a rare triumph in Wales, where they last tasted victory at Arms Park against Cardiff Blues back in September 2013.
Harri Keddie and Taine Basham did touch down for Dragons in either half but the host were second best as they failed to follow up their back-to-back Challenge Cup wins.
The Italians made a bright start and after pinning the Dragons inside their own half, Mbanda burst forward and Canna nudged a grubber through for winger Elliott to cross.
Canna stepped up to extend Zebre’s lead to 7-0 after ten minutes but it did not take long for Dragons to find a response after a scrum penalty gave them valuable territory.
Arwel Robson found touch 30 metres out and following a well-worked line-out, a superb carry and offload from Jack Dixon set up Keddie to race over the whitewash.
Robson converted to level the scores and briefly ease Dragons’ nerves, only for Keddie to be penalised just before the half-hour mark to give Zebre a three-point chance.
Canna made no mistake with the penalty and the fly-half came close to extending Zebre’s advantage five minutes later with a drop goal attempt, which did not find the target.
He was successful with his third penalty attempt on 32 minutes after Dragons were penalised for offside and Zebre went into the half-time interval with a 13-7 lead.
Zebre remained on the front foot after the restart, scoring their second try on 43 minutes. Elliott turned provider this time as Padovani finished off a move that included 11 phases.
Another Canna conversion made it 20-7 to Zebre and it got even worse for Dragons on 50 minutes when Boni put the finishing touches to a lovely flowing move from the Italians.
And following Canna’s third conversion, the result was put beyond doubt with ten minutes to go when Walker went over in the corner following a long pass from the fly-half.
With the bonus-point already in the bag for Zebre, Dragons did manage to cut the gap with their second try – Basham crossing after a Zebre kick was charged down.
But there would be no denying Zebre’s first win in 2019 and Mbanda put the icing on the cake in the 76th minute, going over for the visitors’ fifth try, converted by Michelangelo Biondelli.
Man of the match
Everything that was good from Zebre went through Carlo Canna, who was the deserved man of the match after orchestrating a famous victory for the Italians in Wales.
Canna also kept the scoreboard ticking over with a couple of penalties and added three conversions to keep Dragons at arm’s length in what was a sterling solo showing.
Play of the day
Zebre showed plenty of attacking invention throughout against Dragons, no more so than with their magnificent third try scored by Tommaso Boni after a beautiful build-up.
The try featured some lovely offloads and excellent hands from the Zebre backline before finding Boni, who did the rest to ensure there would be no Dragons comeback.
A mention should also go to the Italian visitors’ first score, which featured a rampaging Mbanda break and clever dink through from Canna to set up Elliott for the opening try.
For the Dragons:
Tries: Keddie, Basham
Tries: Elliott, Padovani, Boni, Walker, Mbanda
Cons: Canna 3, Biondelli
Pens: Canna 2
Dragons: 15 Will Talbot-Davies, 14 Dafydd Howells, 13 Adam Warren, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Owen Jenkins, 10 Arwel Robson, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 Harrison Keddie, 7 Taine Basham, 6 Huw Taylor, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Joe Davies, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Richard Hibbard (captain), 1 Brok Harris
Replacements: 16 Ellis Shipp, 17 Josh Reynolds, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Max Williams, 20 Ben Fry, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Jacob Botica, 23 Tyler Morgan
Zebre: 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Charlie Walker, 13 Giulio Bisegni (captain), 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Renato Giammarioli, 7 Giovanni Licata, 6 Maxime Mbandà, 5 Ian Nagle, 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Giosuè Zilocchi, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Danilo Fischetti
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Andrea Lovotti, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 David Sisi, 20 Johan Meyer, 21 Joshua Renton, 22 Michelangelo Biondelli, 23 Pierre Bruno
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Simon Rees (Wales), Mark Patton (Ireland)
TMO: Colin Stanley (Ireland)
Report by @PRO14Official