Stacey Ili completed a hat-trick in Connacht’s 52-7 rout of Zebre at Stadio Lanfranchi in the Champions Cup on Sunday.
The Irish province dominated the first half and deservedly went into the break 14-0 in front through Ili and Jack Carty tries, before the hosts’ hooker Oliviero Fabiani received his marching orders.
With the Italian outfit down to 14, the visitors secured the bonus-point through Ili’s second effort and a penalty try. They then made hay as Cian Kelleher (twice), Conor Carey and Ili all touched down to complete a comfortable win.
Tommaso D’Apice gain did some consolation for Zebre but they were outclassed throughout the contest. On their last sojourn to Parma, Pat Lam’s men were 22-10 in arrears before a thunderstorm swept across the region to cause the game to be abandoned. There were no such problems this time around, but the home side failed to recapture that verve with Connacht improving significantly since that encounter.
They controlled the opening passages of play and, after Ili went close early on, the winger made up for the missed opportunity by collecting a neat grubber through to touch down. A turnover then led to a second try as Carty displayed excellent pace to cross under the posts and hand Craig Ronaldson an easy conversion for his second of the day.
Zebre were evidently frustrated but they, and particularly Fabiani, decided to take it out in the wrong way. With the front-rower and visiting lock Quinn Roux on the floor, the hooker bit Roux in a disgraceful act that saw him correctly sent off. At that point the Irish team were also down to 14 having seen Sean O’Brien sin-binned but that advantage was lost and Connacht went into the break 14-0 in front.
Connacht also dominated the start of the second period and Ili’s effort gave them a 21-point buffer. With Zebre under pressure, Tommy Castello received a yellow card and they failed to hold out as the visitors were awarded a penalty try following a dominant scrum. Three minutes later the away team scored their fourth touchdown of the afternoon after the impressive Kelleher went over before Carey barged across the whitewash from close range. Although D’Apice responded for Zebre, Connacht rubberstamped the win via their full-back and left-wing, who completed his hat-trick.
Yellow Card: Castello
Red Card: Fabiani (30th minute)
Tries: Carty, Ili 3, Carey, Kelleher 2
Cons: Ronaldson 5, O’Leary
Yellow Card: O’Brien
Zebre: 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Gabriele Di Giulio, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Giambattista Venditti, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Dries van Schalkwyk, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Maxime Mbanda, 5 George Biagi, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Tommaso D’Apice, 17 Bruno Postiglioni, 18 Guillermo Roan, 19 Josh Furno, 20 Federico Ruzza, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Tommy Castello, 23 Giovanni D’Onofrio
Connacht: 15 Cian Kelleher, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Peter Robb, 12 Craig Ronaldson, 11 Stacey Ili, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 John Muldoon, 7 Jake Heenan, 6 Sean O’Brien, 5 Andrew Browne, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Shane Delahunt, 1 JP Cooney
Replacements: 16 David Heffernan, 17 Dominic Robertson McCoy, 18 Conor Carey, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Eoin McKeon, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Shane O’Leary, 23 Bundee Aki
Date: Sunday, October 23
Venue: Stadio Lanfranchi
Kick-off: 16:15 local (14:15 GMT)
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant Referees: Tual Trainini (France), Thomas Déjean)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)