WORCESTER Warriors’ fringe players failed to earn their stripes in Italy as Zebre ran out comfortable winners in another rain-affected European clash.
Director of rugby Dean Ryan handed a number of first team starved squad members the chance to impress in the European Challenge Cup.
But after battling past La Rochelle in an uneventful clash at a soaked Sixways, they struggled again to showcase their talents in miserable conditions.
And on this occasion, they slumped to a disappointing defeat as the boot of Carlo Canna and two tries in the opening 15 minutes from Marcelo Violo and Tommaso Boni guided the Parma side to victory.
Dean Hammond went over late on, but head coach Carl Hogg found it difficult to pluck out any positives from the ‘poor’ performance.
“Our set piece was not good enough, so we conceded driving lineouts and our ability to stay in the kicking game and in the arm wrestle was poor,” he said.
“Sometimes it is just about getting the basics right and that’s what Zebre did in that first half.
“We looked much more competitive in the second half, but we didn’t get the set piece and the collision right.”
Warriors could not have got off to a worse start as Violo went over inside the opening minute. Canna added the extras before landing a penalty to give his side a 10-0 lead.
Zebre continued to attack and increased their advantage when Boni touched down after Violi played the ball out wide.
Canna went wide with his conversion attempt, but he soon made amends with a superb drop goal to put his side 18-0 in front inside the opening 20 minutes.
Warriors cut back the deficit with a Ryan Lamb, but just as it looked like they had got a foothold in the match they went a man down.
Sam Betty, who was making his 100th appearance for the club, was sin-binned after referee Tual Trainini lost patience with Worcester’s forward pack.
Perry Humphreys produced a try-saving tackle to deny Zebre, but the visitors still fell further behind as Canna added another three points.
Despite the wet weather, Canna kept his cool from the tee, but Lamb failed to match his opposite number’s consistency as he hit the post with a long range attempt.
Handling errors were disrupting the flow of the game, but Canna remained undeterred as he landed his fourth penalty of the afternoon.
Facing a 24-3 deficit, Warriors needed a try to spark a fightback and they almost got it as Lamb intercepted a pass and ran 50 metres down the wing, but his lung-busting efforts were in vein as he was forced into touch by the last man.
Zebre all but sealed victory on the 69th minute when Canna increased his points tally to 17, but it was Worcester who had the final word.
With three minutes to go, Hammond burst through Zebre’s defence to score before Lamb saw his conversion attempt bounce off the upright.