Five-try win for Connacht

Date published: October 16 2015

Connacht kept pace with the PRO12 pace-setters as they powered past Zebre in a five-try 34-15 win over Zebre at the Sportsground on Friday.

Four first-half tries put Zebre to the sword, as high flying Connacht continued their bright start to the campaign with a routine victory.

Matt Healy, Kieran Marmion, Eoin McKeon and Craig Ronaldson all went over to secure the bonus point in the first 40 minutes, with a try from Deon Berryman making little impact on the scoreline.

A second-half try from Denis Buckley secured all the points, with Johannes Meyer going over with the final action to salvage some Zebre pride.

With both sides enduring entirely different starts to the campaign, Zebre came into this one hoping to drag themselves from the foot of the PRO12 table.

Not that they started in the best way, with the hosts kicking a three point lead early on through Ronaldson's penalty.

And what started as a tough ask looked like it was already impossible just 10 minutes in. Healy went over the line for the first time in the evening on his 50th appearance, chasing his own chip forward before crashing over. That allowed Ronaldson to do the rest and the hosts were already onto double figures.

The resilient visitors fired back from the restart to get their first points on the board, Edoardo Padovani kicking through the posts after a foul in the air.

That temporary comeback lasted only a few minutes though, as the high flyers heaped more early misery on the Italians. Bundee Aki's searching kick forward was claimed by Healy, and he flicked on to Marmion who grabbed the second try on what threatened to be a long, long night for the basement boys. Ronaldson's conversion took the lead up to 14.

And that score always looked like being stretched, with the hosts duly obliging. A line-out was safely gathered by Quinn Roux, and McKeon was helped by team-mates who mauled themselves over the line as Pat Lam's side looked for a bonus point before the break.

But instead it was Zebre who grabbed the fourth try of a frantic first 40. Berryman was the scorer, and he finished it off after a well worked line-out 10 metres from the line, Padovani kicked through to edge his side onto double figures.

But that fire was extinguished almost from the get go as the visitors lost a man, and another seven points. Andrea Lovotti was issued with a yellow for pulling back Marmion by the jersey, and his absence was noted immediately.

Ronaldson, in such fine form in front of the posts, stepped inside two challenges and drifted in underneath the posts before kicking through to bring up half-time and the bonus point was safely bagged.

And coming out of the other side of the break, a rout was on the cards. A line-out just five metres out saw the hosts maul their way over the line again, bringing up number five via the safe hands of Buckley.

Ronaldson struck a post as he looked to strengthen the advantage, and Connacht easily saw out the remainder of the half to continue their superb start to the campaign. A late try from Meyer counted for very little.

The scorers:

For Connacht:
Tries: Healy, Marmion, McKeon, Ronaldson, Buckley
Con: Ronaldson 3
Pen: Ronaldson

For Zebre:
Tries: Berryman, Meyer
Con: Padovani
Pen: Padovani

Connacht: 15 Tiernan O'Halloran, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Rory Parata, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Nepia Fox-Matamua, 6 John Muldoon (c), 5 Andrew Browne, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Conan O'Donnell, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Aly Muldowney, 20 Eoghan Masterson, 21 John Cooney, 22 Craig Ronaldson, 23 Darragh Leader.

Zebre: 15 Ulrich Beyers, 14 Dion Berryman, 13 Tommaso Boni, 12 Matteo Pratichetti, 11 Kayle van Zyl, 10 Edoardo Padovani, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 7 Jacopo Sarto, 6 Johan Meyer, 5 George Biagi (c), 4 Valerio Bernabò, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 Andrea Manici, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Tommaso D'Apice, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Emiliano Coria, 19 Marco Bortolami, 20 Emiliano Caffini, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Michele Visentin, 23 Carlo Canna.

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant referees: Stuart Gaffikin (Ireland), Stuart Douglas (Ireland)