Plenty of positives as Leinster take stock
Zebre 10 Leinster 33
Leinster coach Leo Cullen said they will take stock during the November break and come back gunning for glory on two fronts after an encouraging start to the season.
His understrength side - there were 13 Leinster players in the match-day squad in Chicago - came from behind to score a bonus-point win in Parma to reclaim leadership in the Pro12.
And with key Champions Cup games coming against Northampton Saints in December, Cullen said they can reflect on their start to the campaign with satisfaction. "It's been pretty flat out with eight Pro12 games, two European games and three pre-season games in 13 weeks. Plus we had a couple of weeks before that. It's been a good 15 or 16-week block.
"Players will get a bit of time off next week, come back in, and there's a lot of areas we can get better at. It's a good opportunity for us to continue to do some work with some of the young players while the November series is going on. There is still a huge amount of growth and a lot of things that we can get better at."
Tom Daly crowned his debut with a try and another former Irish U-20, Hugo Keenan, also made his bow at this level when he came on for Isa Nacewa. But the hero of the win was winger Adam Byrne (below) who marked his sixth league appearance with a hat-trick.
"It was a really pleasing day for Adam, he has worked incredibly hard, being patient to get his opportunity. He has done exceptionally well.
"We are pleased, there were tough conditions out there. It was an achievement in itself scoring the five tries. We are delighted to get a win and five points and it keeps us in a good position in the league," added Cullen.
Zebre had lost all eight previous clashes with Leinster but a try from their South-African born Italian No 8 Dries van Schalkwyk saw them lead 7-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Leinster led 12-10 at the break after Daly marked his first start with a try following Ross Byrne's superb chip, and then a break from Daly set Adam Byrne up for the first of his haul.
Leinster dominated the second-half with Byrne getting his second before Jack Conan wrapped up the bonus point after 55 minutes. An excellent cross-kick from Ross Byrne saw Adam Byrne seal his hat-trick, only the sixth scored by a Leinster player in the league.
"We knew it would be tough. We watched Zebre win in Edinburgh last week so we knew what we were up against," said Cullen.
Zebre - E Padovani (C Engelbrecht 73); G Bisegni, M Pratichetti, T Castello, G Venditti; C Canna, M Violi (G Palazzani 69); A Lovotti (B Postiglioni 62), T D'Apice (C Festuccia 66), D Chistolini (P Ceccarelli 53); Q Geldenhuys, G Biagi (F Ruzza 62); M Mbandà (D Minnie 65), J Meyer, D van Schalkwyk.
Leinster - I Nacewa (H Keenan 71); A Byrne, T Daly, N Reid, B Daly; R Byrne, J Gibson-Park (N McCarthy 71); A Porter (P Dooley 41), R Strauss (J Tracy 41), M Bent (M Ross 41, Bent, 55); M McCarthy (D Ryan 67), H Triggs (M Kearney 62); D Leavy, S O'Brien (R Ruddock 57), J Conan.
Ref - N Owens (Wales).