Justin Tipuric inspires Ospreys to narrow victory over Zebre Parma
Justin Tipuric was at his trademark, brilliant best as Ospreys bagged their first victory of this season’s United Rugby Championship with a 34-31 win over Zebre Parma at the Swansea.com Stadium.
The former Wales star ran, passed, tackled, was peerless at the line-out, put in a terrific tactical kick and won the penalty late on at the breakdown which was to prove crucial by putting them eight points ahead with a couple of minutes remaining.
A revitalised and exciting Zebre out-scored the Welsh team 5-4 on tries and collected two bonus points – Ospreys got one – but their losing streak in the competition, which stretched back to March last year when they defeated the Dragons in Italy, was extended to 27 matches.
There was five tries and 33 points in the opening 25 minutes with Zebre leading 19-14 after blasting out of the starting blocks and into a 12-point lead with tries from winger Simone Gesi and skipper Giovanni Licata, the former’s converted by fly-half Geronimo Prisciantelli.
Ospreys needed a lift from somewhere and Tipuric and full-back Max Nagy provided it by combining from deep before linking with Dom Morris and Morgan Morris to put scrum-half Rueben Morgan-Williams over for a scintillating try.
Winger Mat Protheroe’s super strike, again converted by promising fly-half Jack Walsh, put them ahead for the first time but they relinquished the lead when Gesi went over for the second time with Prisciantelli converting.
Nagy scored a terrific try early in the second half for the Ospreys to regain the initiative and they were not to lose it despite the efforts of Zebre.
Substitute prop Nicky Smith, a member of Wales’ World Cup squad, powered over for their fourth try to earn a bonus point with replacement Owen Williams’ conversion making it 31-19.
However, Zebre were not finished and came roaring back with New Zealander Scott Gregory scoring out wide for Prisciantelli to convert to reduce the arrears to five points.
Williams eased nerves with a vital penalty, won by Tipuric at a breakdown, for an unassailable eight-point lead in the time remaining. Gregory did get a second try for Zebre from the final play of the encounter to ensure a deserved second bonus point but time ran out on them.
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