United Rugby Championship: Dragons 20-13 Zebre - Hosts edge basement battle

United Rugby Championship

Dragons (13) 20

Tries: Owen, Rosser, Dee Con: Evans Pen: Evans

Zebre (6) 13

Try: Hasa Con: Eden Pens: Eden 2

Dragons' defence stood firm enough to deny Zebre and edge a tense United Rugby Championship basement battle.

Opportunistic tries in the first half by Aneurin Owen and Jarred Rosser put Dragons in control at Rodney Parade.

Elliot Dee added a third but Muhamed Hasa's late score set up a nervy end.

Dragons held out to claim a first league win since New Year's Day, lifting them two places off the foot of the table, with the Italians now winless in nine games.

While the league's top two sides Leinster and Bulls were meeting in Dublin, Newport hosted this edgy scrap between the bottom teams.

Not for the first time this month, Welsh and Italian sides were meeting to avoid the wooden spoon in a game of scant quality but plenty of tension.

Dai Flanagan did not hide from the importance of this match and was able to name a strong team with the Wales quartet of Aaron Wainwright, Rio Dyer, Dee and Ben Carter all starting.

But it was two uncapped homegrown youngsters who broke the deadlock following a scrappy opening that befitted their league positions.

Dragons twice conceded from interceptions against Bulls last week, but this time returning centre Owen, among seven changes, picked off a long pass and ran half the length of the field to score.

Six minutes later and the counter-rucking of prop Luke Yendle and Dyer handed wing Rosser the chance to speed clear along the touchline from even further out for the second try.

The frustration was that Cai Evans, who started with an 84% success rate, missed both conversions, allowing Tiff Eden to cut the deficit to 10-6 with a pair of penalties despite a strong defensive effort.

Dragons saved their best move for the stroke of half-time when Dee peeled off the back of a lineout and sent scrum-half Rhodri Williams scampering through.

Opposite number Gonzalo Garcia was shown a yellow card as Zebre scrambled to save a try.

But Dragons' decision to kick for goal from in front of the posts showed how much was riding on the game and - perhaps - a lack of confidence.

A series of penalties in the opening minutes of the second half allowed Dragons to stroll up field before unleashing a lineout drive that Dee finished with ease for the hosts' third try.

Veteran prop Dmitri Arhip made his Dragons debut from the bench after joining on a short-term deal having feared his career could be over when he ruptured an Achilles last season.

Zebre had Italy internationals Danilo Fischetti, Lorenzo Pani and Andrea Zambonin back in their starting side and continued to dominate possession and territory.

Rosser did well to snuff out a chance created by the pace and skill of full-back Pani before replacement prop Hasa barged over five minutes from time to set up a tense climax.

Dragons: Cai Evans, Rio Dyer, Steff Hughes (capt), Aneurin Owen, Jared Rosser; Will Reed, Rhodri Williams; Rhodri Jones, Elliot Dee, Luke Yendle, Ben Carter, Matthew Screech, Sean Lonsdale, Taine Basham, Aaron Wainwright.

Replacements: James Benjamin, Aki Seiuli, Dmitri Arhip, George Nott, Dan Lydiate, Harri Keddie, Dane Blacker, Joe Westwood.

Zebre: Lorenzo Pani, Pierre Bruno, Franco Smith Jr, Fetuli Paea, Simone Gesi; Tiff Eden, Gonzalo Garcia; Danilo Fischetti, Giampietro Ribaldi, Juan Pitinari, Leonard Krumov, Andrea Zambonin, Davide Ruggeri, Iacopo Bianchi, Giovanni Licata (capt).

Replacements: Luca Bigi, Muhamed Hasa, Ion Neculai, David Sisi, Josh Kaifa, Alessandro Fusco, Jacopo Trulla, Guido Volpi.

Sin-bin: Garcia (39)