European Rugby Champions Cup: Zebre 27-41 Wasps
|European Rugby Champions Cup Pool 2|
|Zebre (13) 27|
|Tries: Bellini, Baker, Ruzza Cons: Canna 2, Violi Pens: Canna, Violi|
|Wasps (22) 41|
|Tries: Johnson 2, Cipriani, Daly, Wade, Hughes Cons: Cipriani 4 Pens: Cipriani|
Wasps secured top spot in their pool and a Champions Cup quarter-final at Leinster after coming back from behind to see off bottom side Zebre in Italy.
Zebre, who have won only one game this season and just two in 28 in the last year, dominated the early exchanges and deservedly built a 10-point advantage.
But, after Oliviero Fabiani was sin-binned on 29 minutes, Wasps then ran in three tries before half-time.
Derek Minnie was also carded after the break as Wasps added three more tries.
Wasps, the 2004 and 2007 champions, began the final round of matches in second place, a point behind Connacht, but were confident of a comfortable victory against the minnows they had thrashed 82-14 in the reverse fixture in October.
But in the opening half-an-hour, they could only produce a Danny Cipriani penalty as all the pressure came from the hosts, who scored the first try when Mattia Bellini breached a gap in the defence.
However, Zebre were left a man down when Fabiani was shown the yellow card for a no-arms tackle and Ashley Johnson soon powered over from close range.
Cipriani ghosted through the challenges following a driving maul and the ball was worked wide for Elliot Daly to add a third.
As the home side tired, Minnie was sin-binned for an infringement at a maul and Johnson added a second, with Christian Wade also getting on the scoresheet when he scampered through in the corner after some fleet-footed work on the touchline.
Nathan Hughes had been on the field only a matter of moments when he completed the scoring for the visitors. leaving Connacht to miss out on the last eight after they were beaten 19-10 by Toulouse.
Wasps captain Joe Launchbury:
"We didn't get out of our half and try and play territory. We did the opposite and lost a few line-outs but it was pleasing that we steadied ourselves. We had a rough 10 to 15 minutes, but we got our way back into the game. We knew if we got some ball we'd cause them problems and thankfully we did that.
"Some parts weren't good enough, but it's the third year in a row for us to get through to the knockout stages. so we're obviously ecstatic. We're a newly formed side in terms of where we're trying to get to but this is another step towards where we want to be.
"When you get through to this stage of Europe there are no easy games and we understand the challenge ahead. We went to Leinster in the group stages last year so we're really excited about that."
Zebre: Baker; Greef, Bellini, Boni, Palazzani; Canna, Violi; Lovotti, Fabiani, Chistolini, Furno, Biagi, Mbanda, Meyer, Minnie.
Replacements: van Schalkwyk for Mbanda (35), Ceccarelli for Chistolini (48), D'Apice for Fabiani (59), Koegelenberg for Biagi (65), Postiglioni for Lovotti (68), Engelbrecht for Boni (70), Ruzza for Furno (70), Bordoli for Canna (72),
Sin Bin: Fabiani (29), Minnie (51).
Wasps: Beale; Wade, Daly, Eastgate, Halai; Cipriani, Robson; McIntyre, Taylor, Moore, Launchbury, Symons, Johnson, Haskell, Thompson.
Replacements: Hughes for Thompson (22), Mullan for McIntyre (57), Swainston for Moore (57), Young for Haskell (57), Gaskell for Launchbury (59), Hampson for Robson (63), Bassett for Wade (69),
Not used: Gopperth.
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland).
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