Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

Leinster survive a scare as Zebre push them all the way in 10-try thriller

It finished 33-29 as Leinster escaped with a bonus-point victory.

IT TOOK AN immense late defensive stand from Leinster to hold on against Zebre as they escaped the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi with a four-point win on a 29-33 scoreline. 

In what was a terrific URC first-round tie, Zebre spent the final minutes camped in the away outfit’s 22 but were unable to secure their sixth try. A handling error, a scrum penalty and an inaccurate offload helped Leinster fall over the line against a spirited and at times scintillating opponent. 

Luke McGrath touched down in the opening minutes before a clever lineout move saw Player of the Match Rhys Ruddock score. The back row added another soon after from close range. Then Zebre bit back. 

rhys-ruddock-celebrates-after-scoring-a-try-with-jason-jenkins Matteo Ciambelli / INPHO Matteo Ciambelli / INPHO / INPHO

A wonderful launch move finished with Richard Kriel touching down in the corner. That kickstarted the home challenge. Minutes later, Pierre Bruno collected a kick and scored a try to delight the crowd in Parma. 

Leinster debutant Jason Jenkins did strike back and secure the bonus point try before the break. At half-time, Leo Cullen’s side led by 18. 

Poor defence and an inability to deal with the bouncing ball allowed youngster Simone Gesi to reduce the deficit. Max O’Reilly’s gamble nearly paid off but a bounce pass broke kindly and Rob Russell was unable to force the Italian winger into touch. 

With 56 minutes on the clock, Zebre once again exploited Leinster out wide. Their bonus point fourth try came with MJ Pelser crashing past Jamie Osborne and touching down under the posts. Suddenly, it was 22-28. 

With the supporters out of their seats and in full voice, remarkably a shock looked on the cards. Leinster looked to their bench for assistance and it was replacement Ciaran Frawley’s pass that freed Dave Kearney to dot down in the corner. 

Franco Smith’s line break sent Leinster back to their panic stations. In a nervy finish, they managed to hold on to their four-point lead and escape with a win. 

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