Pro12: Newport Gwent Dragons 11-6 Zebre
|Dragons (11) 11|
|Try: Howard Pens: Macleod 2|
|Zebre (6) 6|
|Pens: Canna 2|
Newport Gwent Dragons held on for a scrappy 11-6 victory over Zebre in a low-quality game at Rodney Parade in the Pro12.
New wing Pat Howard scored the only try after 17 minutes with the Dragons trying to play a high-tempo game.
Nick Macleod and Carlo Canna landed two penalties apiece in the first period.
But the second half proved scoreless with neither side able to finish their attacking moves. as Dragons secured their first win of the season.
The game brought together two of the 2015-16 strugglers with Zebre winning the last game of the season 47-22 in Parma after the Dragons' 13-0 early-season victory in Italy.
Howard scored the Dragons' first-half try after 17 minutes from a Hallam Amos offload, with plenty of attacking intent from the home side as their forwards looked to keep ball in hand.
Scrum-half Sarel Pretorius and lock Rynard Landman made several threatening breaks between them, but the Dragons were not accurate enough to cash in.
Two penalties apiece from Macleod and Canna took the score to 11-6 at the interval, and that was how it stayed as the match went rapidly downhill.
Canna pushed a penalty wide after 42 minutes before the Dragons dominated territory for much of the second half.
The sin-binning of rival props Brok Harris and Guillermo Roan for collapsing the scrum did not help create space, and the Dragons could not take advantage when another Zebre prop, Andrea de Marchi, also saw yellow.
The home side strangely turned down two kickable penalties and almost paid the price as Giulio Bisegni intercepted from Amos' pass on 75 minutes, only for the Dragons' defence to scramble back.
Home number eight Ed Jackson, who is first choice after the departure of Taulupe Faletau to Bath, was named man-of-the-match for his tireless ball-carrying.
Newport Gwent Dragons' Ed Jackson told BBC Wales Sport: "We knew it was going to be a tough match because Zebre always target us, we're normally competing with them in the bottom third of the table.
"It's not where we want to be this year but we knew they'd bring a lot more this week after their disappointment last week (losing 59-5 away to the Ospreys).
"It's not a surprise but it's a bit disappointing considering the territory and possession we had, our unforced errors were our undoing so we need to put that right.
"We were trying to force it at times and we need to earn the right to play, our line-out wasn't as good as it should be and they put pressure on us to make it scrappy in the second half, which is what we didn't want."
Dragons: Hallam Amos; Adam Warren, Tyler Morgan, Sam Beard, Pat Howard; Nick Macleod, Sarel Pretorius; Thomas Davies, T Rhys Thomas, Brok Harris, Nick Crosswell, Rynard Landman, Lewis Evans (capt), Nic Cudd, Ed Jackson.
Replacements: Rhys Buckley, Sam Hobbs, Lloyd Fairbrother, Matthew Screech, James Thomas, Charlie Davies, Angus O'Brien, Geraint Rhys Jones.
Zebre: Kurt Baker; Lloyd Greeff, Giulio Bisegni, Tommaso Boni, Gabriele Di Giulio; Carlo Canna, Guglielmo Palazzani; Andrea De Marchi, Oliviero Fabiani, Pietro Ceccarelli, Quintin Geldenhuys, George Biagi (capt), Jacopo Sarto, Maxime Mbanda, Andries Van Schalkwyk.
Replacements: Carlo Festuccia, Guillermo Roan, Dario Chistolini, Gideon Koegelenberg, Federico Ruzza, Carlo Engelbrecht, Matteo Pratichetti, Edoardo Padovani.
Referee: Lloyd Linton (SRU)
Assistant referees: Cammy Rudkin (SRU), Gareth John (WRU)
Citing commissioner: Jeff Mark (WRU)