Connacht put Zebre to the sword

Date published: January 14 2017

Connacht clobbered Zebre when they scored 10 tries to beat the Italian side 66-21 in Galway on Saturday.

Zebre briefly held the lead early on but succumbed to their fifth successive defeat in the competition while the bonus-point win for the Irish province provided them a great opportunity to progress to the knockout stages.

Matt Healy made the perfect start to the game, going over with ease after quick passing from the backs led to the wing going over with consummate ease. John Cooney found the conversion just as simple.

There was a spanner in the works moments later as Zebre levelled through a converted Johann Meyer try, who went over in the right hand corner with less than 10 minutes on the clock, while midway through the half the Italians had the lead. It came through number eight Federico Ruzza sliding under the posts, and Carlo Canna could not miss the extras.

Connacht then turned around the game themselves before the half hour mark. First, Cooney converted his own try having been put through by Sean O’Brien before Tiernan O’Halloran went over between the posts with the 100 percent conversion record for the game kept intact by Cooney.

Before the half hour mark, Finlay Bealham secured the hosts a bonus point try and had twice the amount of points of their opponents before Lloyd Greef was sent to the sin-bin for a high tackle, and Connacht put the game almost beyond doubt thanks to Kieron Marmian touching down from the maul and try number six came courtesy of Craig Ronaldson on his return from injury, selling the backs with a dummy.

After the break, Connacht came out with the same intentions against a Zebre side out of their depth, Healy and O’Halloran scoring their second tries of the game as the hosts took off their key players.

Marmion added the eighth try soon after and the score was more representative of a cricket score than a game of rugby.

Zebre, outclassed and well beaten, still harboured hopes of taking a bonus point and had their third try on the hour mark through centre Mattia Bellini, but the day belonged to Connacht, who scored their 10th try through Caolin Blade after a good pass from Healy to round off the scoring.

The scorers:

For Connacht:
Healy 2, Cooney, O’Halloran 2, Bealham, Marmion 2, Ronaldson, Blade
Cons: Cooney 8

For Zebre:
Meyer, Ruzza, Bellini
Cons: Canna 3
Yellow Cards: Greef, Ceccarelli

Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Rory Parata, 12 Craig Ronaldson, 11 Matt Healy, 10 John Cooney, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 John Muldoon (c), 7 Eoin McKeon, 6 Sean O’Brien, 5 James Cannon, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 JP Cooney, 18 John Andress, 19 James Connolly, 20 Naulia Dawai, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Tom Farrell, 23 Danie Poolman

Zebre: 15 Kurt Baker, 14 Lloyd Greeff, 13 Edoardo Padovani, 12 Mattia Bellini, 11 Guglielmo Palazzani, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Federico Ruzza, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Maxime Mbandà (c), 5 Valerio Bernabò, 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 Carlo Festuccia, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Joshua Furno, 20 George Biagi, 21 Carlo Engelbrecht, 22 Derick Minnie, 23 Serafin Bordoli

Referee: Tom Foley (England)
Assistant Referees: Ian Tempest (England), Roger Baileff (England)
TMO: Sean Davey (England)