Welsh woes against Italians continue as Dragons defeated in Zebre’s first win in 14 months
Zebre Parma claimed their first United Rugby Championship victory since February last year as they defeated the Dragons 23-18 at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.
The Dragons were Zebre’s last URC scalp more than 14 months ago, and their Italian hosts again proved too strong.
The Welsh side were reduced to 13 players for a quarter of the second half after wing Jared Rosser and fly-half Sam Davies received yellow cards.
Zebre were awarded a penalty try for an offence in the move that saw Davies sin-binned, then wing Simone Gesi crossed five minutes from time to clinch a first league win of the campaign at the 15th attempt.
Hooker Luca Bigi also crossed for the home side, while fly-half Antonio Rizzi kicked two penalties.
The Dragons posted touchdowns from Rosser and substitute Lewis Jones, with Davies adding two penalties and a conversion, but it was the lowest point of a miserable season that has yielded just two URC victories.
Davies kicked the Dragons into a sixth-minute lead, but that was quickly cancelled out by a Rizzi strike, before they each landed another penalty as the opening quarter ended level.
But Zebre enjoyed territorial supremacy, and they capitalised on that through a 23rd-minute try when they drove a close-range line-out and Bigi claimed the touchdown.
Rizzi missed the conversion, yet the Dragons were under pressure and could find no way through a well-organised Zebre defence.
Much of the action was scrappy and lacking pattern, as both sides’ attacking efforts were undermined by poor handling or wrong options.
The Dragons pressed as half-time approached, with centres Adam Warren and Jack Dixon both carrying strongly, yet a poor opening 40 minutes ended through a Dragons line-out infringement and another scoring opportunity disappeared.
The third quarter continued in similar vein, yet Zebre continued growing in confidence and the Dragons looked increasingly devoid of attacking ideas.
But they managed to draw level 13 minutes into the second period when a sharp break by wing Rio Dyer and an inside pass sent Jones over for a try.
Davies missed the conversion, but the Dragons went ahead just four minutes later as Rosser showcased his pace to finish impressively, before Davies added the extras and opened up a seven-point lead.
It proved a short-lived advantage, though, as the Dragons pressed a self-destruct button, with Rosser and Davies sin-binned in rapid succession and Irish referee Chris Busby awarding Zebre a penalty try.
It set up a tense final 15 minutes, and Zebre prevailed when Gesi breached the Dragons’ defence.
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