Healy treble sends Connacht top

Date published: February 20 2016

Connacht moved to the top of the PRO12 standings on Saturday after they won a thrill-a-minute clash with Zebre 51-34 at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.

Matt Healy was the star of the show for Connacht as he scored a hat-trick.

The home side scored four of the own however, although the Irish side were in control throughout the game.

Healy took his tally to ten tries for the season, while Craig Ronaldson and AJ MacGinty were impressive from the tee.

Zebre's tries came from four players, including one for Kelly Haimona who also converted all of his attempts at the posts.

Ronaldson opened the scoring from the tee after four minutes, before Connacht were penalised at the breakdown and Haimona brought the home side level.

Healy then scored the first try of the game, after great handling from Bundee Aki before Tiernan O'Halloran found the winger. Ronaldson made it 10-3 to the visitors.

Connacht were then pulled up for being off the feet in the ruck, and Haimona converted the penalty to add three more points for the Italians.

Kieran Marmion then crashed over to extend Connacht's lead, after taking a quick tap penalty catching the hosts off guard. Ronaldson continued his form from the tee to make it 17-6.

Zebre continued to press, and shortly after having a try attempt held up, Johan Meyer touched down from a line-out, before Haimona added the extras.

After the break, Connacht's leading try-scorer for the season Healy scored his second of the game under the posts. Ronaldson converted with ease, which bought the score to 24-13 in favour of the visitors.

Zebre soon replied though, as Haimona reached for the line to keep his side in the tie after a great passing move between the backs. He followed it up with the conversion.

Connacht's bonus point was secured when MacGinty chipped the ball over the Zebre defence, allowing Healy to run on to it and score his hat-trick. MacGinty added the extras, after Peter Robb had replaced Ronaldson.

It continued raining tries at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, with Zebre's Dries van Schalkwyk the next to get in on the act after intercepting a pass to run the length of the field. Haimona converted well, taking the score to 31-27.

After 57 minutes, Connacht scored their fifth of the afternoon, after Niyi Adeolokun met a sweeping pass from O'Halloran on the right wing. MacGinty converted the try, before adding three extra points from the tee moments later.

Adeolokun then finished off an incisive passing move from Connacht, allowing MacGinty to add two more points to his total.

With ten minutes remaining, Mattero Panunzi set up Federico Ruzza for the Italians' fourth try, securing at least a bonus point in the frantic tie in Parma. Haimona converted, maintaining his 100 percent record for the afternoon.

MacGinty then took Connacht into the fifties from the tee, before the game finally took a breath, and petered out to finish with another Connacht win.

The scorers:

For Zebre:
Tries: Meyer, Haimona, Van Schalkwyk, Ruzza
Con: Haimona 4
Pen: Haimona 2

For Connacht:
Tries: Healy 3, Marmion, Adeolokun 2
Con: Ronaldson 3, MacGinty 3
Pen: Ronaldson, MacGinty 2

Zebre: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Giulio Toniolatti, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Matteo Pratichetti, 11 Kayle Van Zyl, 10 Kelly Haimona, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Emiliano Caffini, 5 Marco Bortolami (c), 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Bruno Postiglioni
Replacements: 16 Emiliano Coria, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 Federico Ruzza, 20 Filippo Cristiano, 21 Matteo Panunzi, 22 Ulrich Beyers, 23 Tommaso Boni

Connacht: 15 Tiernan O'Halloran, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Bundee Aki, 12 Craig Ronaldson, 11 Matt Healy, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Jake Heenan, 6 John Muldoon (c), 5 Aly Muldowney, 4 Ben Marshall, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 George Naoupu, 20 Eoghan Masterson, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Peter Robb, 23 Danie Poolman

Referee: Gary Conway (Ireland)