Zebre makes Wasps earn it
EUROPEAN CUP MATCH REPORT: This was supposed to be another easy run around for high-flying Wasps, but it turned out to be anything other than that before they finally secured their trip to Dublin to face Leinster in the quarterfinals.
Zebre gave their best performance of the season and led 13-3 midway through the first half. It was a far cry from the 14-82 massacre they suffered in Round One when Wasps ran in 12 tries.
Three months on and the losing margin was reduced to 14 points, they cut the number of Wasps tries in half and scored three themselves. Had they not lost two players to the sin-bin, who knows how much closer they might have got to winning.
Italian flyhalf Carlo Canna kicked his side into an eighth-minute lead and then converted a try four minutes later from international centre Mattia Bellini, who left Kurtley Beale for dead in the Wasps 22.
Danny Cipriani got Wasps on the board with a penalty, but then Marcello Violi stepped up to kick a simple penalty while his halfback partner, Canna, was changing his boots.
Then came the crucial moment for the visitors as Zebre hooker Oliviero Fabiani was sent to the bin for a no-arms tackle. Off the back of the scrum 15 metres out of the home posts, Guy Thompson picked up and his back row colleague Ashley Johnson bashed his way over for the first of his two tries.
Cipriani then ghosted his way over for a try, which he also converted, before England centre Elliot Daly raced to the left corner on the stroke of half-time. Cipriani converted from the touchline and Wasps were leading 22-13 at the break.
Johnson grabbed the bonus-point try and there was clear daylight when Zebre No.8 Derick Minnie picked up a yellow card in the 51st minute for swimming down the side of a ruck.
Wasps went on to grab two more tries, an electrifying 30-metre sprint from Christian Wade and short range crash over from Hughes, but Zebre hit back with two more of their own.
Canna and Bellini setup fullback Kurt Baker for a run-in and then replacement lock Federico Ruzza made it three tries in two games against Wasps this season, with a close range lunge in the last move of the match.
Tries: Bellini, Baker, Ruzza
Cons: Canna 2, Violi
Pens: Canna, Violi
Tries: Johnson 2, Cipriani, Daly, Wade, Hughes
Cons: Cipriani 4
Yellow cards: Oliviero Fabiani (Zebre, 29); Derick Minnie (Zebre, 51)
Zebre: 15 Kurt Baker, 14 Lloyd Greeff, 13 Mattia Bellini, 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Guglielmo Palazzani, 10 Carlo Canna (captain), 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Derick Minnie, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Maxime Mbandà, 5 George Biagi, 4 Joshua Furno, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Tommaso D’Apice, 17 Bruno Postiglioni, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Federico Ruzza, 21 Carlo Engelbrecht, 22 Serafin Bordoli, 23 Andries Van Schalkwyk.
Wasps: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Frank Halai, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Guy Thompson, 7 James Haskell, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 Matt Symons, 4 Joe Launchbury (captain), 3 Marty Moore, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Simon McIntyre.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Hughes, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 James Gaskell, 20 Thomas Young, 21 Craig Hampson, 22 Jimmy Gopperth, 23 Josh Bassett.
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy (Ireland), Jonny Erskine (Ireland)
TMO: Kevin Beggs (Ireland)