|Ospreys (3) 10|
|Try: Webb Con: J Thomas Pen: J Thomas|
|Zebre (0) 0|
Out of-favour Wales scrum-half Rhys Webb proved the only inspiration on a turgid evening as Ospreys defeated Zebre in Swansea.
A Josh Thomas penalty at the end of the first-half was the only score of the opening 40 minutes.
It took 74 minutes before Ospreys captain Webb produced the one moment of magic with an inspired individual try.
Thomas converted as Ospreys secured a seventh win in eight games in all competitions.
Toby Booth’s side consolidated their third place in Conference A with Zebre remaining rooted to the bottom.
Despite the win, it proved a forgettable night at the Liberty Stadium as Ospreys returned to their home venue for the first time in more than two months.
The last Pro14 game at the ground was on 8 November against Leinster, while the last home match in Swansea was against Castres in the Challenge Cup on 12 December.
This was because matches were moved away from Swansea with a new surface also being laid at the Liberty Stadium.
On their return, Webb captained Ospreys in the absence of regular skipper Justin Tipuric. Webb has been left out of the initial Six Nations squad by Wales coach Wayne Pivac and again overlooked in favour of Lloyd Williams when Tomos Williams was ruled out with a hamstring injury.
Pivac had questioned Webb’s pace and speed of pass but the British and Irish Lions test player was a notable cut above the rest on this Pro14 occasion in a second successive man-of-the-match display since his international omission.
Fly-half Stephen Myler had a hamstring injury with Josh Thomas wearing the number 10 jersey and flanker Olly Cracknell packing down in the back-row.
Zebre fly-half Antonio Rizzi and Thomas missed penalty attempts in the opening quarter which was dominated by penalties and turnovers.
Ospreys’ lineout woes allowed Zebre to pile on the pressure with visiting full-back Michelangelo Biondelli spurning a glorious try-scoring chance.
Webb showed the rare moments of class with a probing kick and incisive break but his attempted try-scoring pass to Morgan Morris went astray.
Ospreys’ attempts to break the deadlock were thwarted by Zebre forcing turnover penalties, while Wales hooker Sam Parry was penalised for a double movement.
The hosts’ set-piece problems continued with a malfunctioning lineout and scrum penalties but Thomas finally slotted over a penalty with the final action of the half to ensure the first-half was not scoreless.
Zebre kept trying to breach Ospreys line but home wing Mat Protheroe almost gained an interception try but failed to gather the loose pass.
Referee Nigel Owens finally ran out of patience with Ospreys replacement Ifan Phillips penalised for persistent offending from both sides as the hooker was awarded a yellow card.
Ospreys overcame their numerical disadvantage as Webb rose above the mediocrity produced his late try-scoring burst before replacement Keelan Giles was denied a last-gasp effort because of a knock-on.
Ospreys head coach Toby Booth: “I am delighted with the win. Wins are hard. Everybody knows that, it’s a competitive league. We are less than satisfied with the performance.
“In games like that in average weather your set-piece needs to stand up. Our lineout did not and when we found the answers, we did not find them quickly enough.
“We have not played for a long time. The international group have gone so we are on the bare bones of what we have got but it is a great opportunity for them to fill the gap.
“The age profile of our side was pretty young, especially with Stephen Myler missing and Rhys Webb really grew into that and embraced it. He led from the front and I am pleased for him.”
Ospreys: Dan Evans; Mat Protheroe, Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, Keiran Williams, Luke Morgan; Josh Thomas, Rhys Webb (c); Gareth Thomas, Sam Parry, Ma’afu Fia, Lloyd Ashley, Rhys Davies, Olly Cracknell, Sam Cross, Morgan Morris.
Replacements: Ifan Phillips, Garyn Phillips, Tom Botha, Will Griffiths, Gareth Evans, Shaun Venter, Joe Hawkins, Keelan Giles.
Zebre: Michelangelo Biondelli; Pierre Bruno, Tommaso Boni (c), Enrico Lucchin, Mattia Bellini; Antonio Rizzi, Nicolò Casilio; Daniele Rimpelli, Oliviero Fabiani, Eduardo Bello, Mick Kearney, Ian Nagle, Lorenzo Masselli, Potu Junior Leavasa, Renato Giammarioli.
Replacements: Massimo Ceciliani, Paolo Buonfiglio, Matteo Nocera, Leonard Krumov, Samuele Ortis, Alessandro Fusco, Paolo Pescetto, Jamie Elliott.
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)
Assistant Referees: Gwyn Morris, Ben Breakspear (both WRU)
TMO: Wayne Davies (WRU).