Wasps crush Zebre in Champions Cup opener
Wasps made an impressive start to their Champions Cup campaign with a twelve try thrashing of Zebre at the Ricoh Arena.
The Italians had no answer to the power of the home pack in which Nathan Hughes and Joe Launchbury excelled and this allowed the Wasps backs to run riot and record their highest score in the top tier of European competition.
Rob Miller and Joe Simpson scored two each with Frank Halai, Ashley Johnson, Elliot Daly, Jake Cooper-Woolley, Josh Bassett, James Gaskell, Dan Robson and Launchbury one apiece. Danny Cipriani converted six and Jimmy Gopperth five.
Federico Ruzza scored two tries for Zebre with Edoardo Padovani converting both.
Having picked up a side strain injury, Christian Wade was an absentee for Wasps with September's Premiership player of the month, Gopperth, on the replacement bench.
Zebre hooker Carlo Festuccia returned to the Ricoh Arena to face his old club but i t promised to be a long afternoon for him when Wasps took the lead after only two minutes. Hughes and Kyle Eastmond made big inroads into the visitors' defence before Cipriani and Daly combined to present Miller with a simple run-in.
Five minutes later, the hosts went further ahead when a Simpson pass sent Cooper-Woolley crashing over, with Cipriani converting both scores for a healthy early advantage.
Worse was to follow for Zebre with two further blows in quick succession. First their number eight Dries Van Schalkwyk was sin-binned for an illegal tackle on Wasps' skipper Launchbury, before a neat pass from Cipriani sent Simpson over for Wasps' third.
The nightmare continued for the hapless Italians when flanker Jacopo Sarto was helped off with a leg injury but his replacement Ruzza did put them on the scoreboard with a try from a driving line-out.
Van Schalkwyk returned from the sin-bin in time to see Wasps collect their bonus-point try in the 25th minute when a cross-field kick from Cipriani was seized upon by Halai to present Miller with his second of the match.
A fifth try for Wasps soon followed when a long pass from Cipriani sent Halai galloping to the line before Ruzza responded with his second after intercepting a stray pass.
Just before the interval, Simpson made the running for Johnson to score with Cipriani's sixth conversion of the half giving Wasps a 42-14 half-time lead.
The second half also started badly for Zebre when Daly collected the kick-off to score as the Italians stood and watched, before Eastmond departed for a head assessment with Gopperth coming on in his place.
Festuccia was sent to the sin bin before Eastmond returned to take the place of Cipriani in the 52nd minute and Launchbury crashed over from a line-out to take Wasps past 50.
Despite Daly and Launchbury leaving the field, Zebre just could not stem the flow with Bassett, Gaskell, Simpson and Robson all scoring tries in the final 25 minutes to crush the demoralised Italians.