Giles double helps Ospreys hold off Zebre
PRO14 MATCH REPORT: Keelan Giles grabbed a double to get the Ospreys off to a winning start to the Pro14 season, but they were pushed all the way by Zebre before running out 22-13 winners.
In an entertaining game at the Liberty Stadium, the Ospreys looked to be in control when they took a 15-3 lead in to half-time, but after Carlo Canna’s late score, Zebre threatened a comeback win.
Instead it was the Ospreys who struck at the death, Giles going over for his second of the game to seal the victory.
Led by the returning James Hook, the Ospreys needed just two minutes to take the lead as they found a way through the Zebre defence.
Hook was at the heart of it, spreading the ball wide for Justin Tipuric, and he in turn fed Giles who celebrated his new contract with a try.
Hook couldn’t convert, and Zebre were able to cut the deficit to two points not long after thanks to the boot of Canna after an extended period of possession.
Things got worse for the Ospreys when they lost Ben John to the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle in the air, but Zebre were unable to make that extra man count.
Instead it was the Ospreys who stretched their lead midway through the half with a Hook penalty making it 8-3.
That looked to be it for the scoring in the first half but a Tipuric turnover got the Ospreys back on the front foot, and on the stroke of half-time, Maafu Fia was able to force his way over from close range, with Hook converting.
Canna cut the deficit back to nine points early in the second half, but Zebre then lost George Biagi to a yellow card for a neck roll.
However just like their opponents in the first half, the Ospreys couldn’t take advantage of their extra player, and instead it was Zebre who looked the more threatening.
One long period of possession eventually ended with the ball being turned over, but they got right back into it with ten minutes remaining.
Ciaran Gaffney caused the initial danger, and while Giles was able to bring him down, Canna was on hand to finish off the move, converting his own try as Zebre trailed 15-13.
The Italians looked like they might be on course to spring a surprise but instead the Ospreys finished with a flourish as Giles went over for his second.
It came from a delightful kick through by Sam Davies, with the fly-half also adding the conversion to make it a two-score game once again.
Tries: Giles 2, Fia
Cons: Hook, Davies
Pens: Canna 2
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Keelan Giles, 13 Ben John, 12 Cory Allen, 11 Jeff Hassler, 10 James Hook, 9 Tom Habberfield (captain), 8 Dan Baker, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Olly Cracknell, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Ma'afu Fia, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Lloyd Ashley, 20 James King, 21 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Kieron Fonotia.
Zebre: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Giulio Bisegni, 13 Mattia Bellini, 12 Tommaso Castello (captain), 11 Gabriele Di Giulio, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Giovanni Licata, 7 Renato Giammarioli, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 George Biagi, 4 David Sisi, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Tommaso D'Apice, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Roberto Tenga, 19 Leonard Krumov, 20 Jacopo Sarto, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Tommaso Boni, 23 Ciaran Gaffney.
Referee: Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Stuart Berry (South Africa), Robert Price (Wales)