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Connacht philosophy on full display as they carve up Zebre for 10-try win

Despite some early frustration, Pat Lam’s side secured a bonus point inside 27 minutes.

Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Connacht 66

Zebre 21

Sean Farrell reports from The Sportsground

IN RECENT YEARS, particularly after their Pro12 title win, Connacht players have spoken with a certain pride of how they have to shut out some outside noise in order to continue to play their game.

Today’s 10-try bonus point win over Zebre was another fine example. The Italian side’s recent results meant nobody gave them a hope and bookmakers set the spread at five converted tries. So when they took a 7 – 14 lead simply by piling pressure on the hosts when they attempted to run from their own 22, the old school mutters could be heard.

They need to kick it.

But on a dry day, that’s just not in their make-up. Pat Lam’s side, even with John Cooney acting as a makeshift out-half, continued to trust in their own process and ignore any wisdom that wasn’t from their own team room. Sure enough, the bonus point was secured with just 27 minutes on the clock and the grumbles were long forgotten.

In possession in the final two thirds of the field, Connacht constantly threatened to carve out space to score from distance. Matt Healy touched down after just a minute as Cooney put Tiernan O’Halloran through a gap and he duly put his wing away.

Eight out of 10

They needed a second breakthrough to level the scores at 14 – 14 in the 18th minute, Sean O’Brien grasping a pass and breaking in midfield before the playmakers Ronaldson and Cooney linked to get the number 10 over.

Cooney has been eased in to out-half duties in recent weeks, but starting for the first time he was impressive with the kicking tee (converting eight tries successfully) and in possession. His kicking from hand will be his big work-on for the week ahead though, as he twice left penalties aimed at touch woefully short.

Such errors were not going to be seriously punished today however. And Cooney made amends by poking a chip through the defensive line with the outside of his right boot for O’Halloran to collect and dot down under the posts.

Craig Ronaldson and Matt Healy celebrate with try scorer Finlay Bealham Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Having shown their handling skills, Connacht then went after the set-piece and sealed the bonus point with Finlay Bealham off a maul. Italian indiscipline soon brought two yellow cards which gave Connacht a wide open target.

Tries before the break from Kieran Marmion and Craig Ronaldson made the halfway advantage 40 – 14. The visitors mentally checked out as they headed for the dressing room, forlorn attempts at tackles were no way to thwart Connacht when they raided into space and the clinical skill-set brought excellent second half tries for Healy, Ronaldson,  Marmion and his replacement Caolin Blade.

The canter allowed Lam the chance to call some of his more important men in out of the firing line; Craig Ronaldson, John Muldoon, Marmion and  O’Halloran all wrapped in cotton wool as the scoreboard went past the 60 mark.

Kieran Marmion scores his sides ninth try despite Lloyd Greeff Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The changes meant that the urgency to chase a points total was lost and Zebre were allowed a third try at the other end.

Still, the ruthless counter-attacking skills meant there was never anything to unduly worry this accomplished Connacht side.

They don’t panic anyway.

Scorers

Connacht

Tries: M Healy (2), J Cooney, T O’Halloran (2), F Bealham, K Marmion (2), C Ronaldson. C Blade.

Conversions: J Cooney (8/10)

Zebre

Tries: J Meyer, F Ruzza, M Bellini

Conversions: C Canna (3/3)

Yellow cards: L Greeff (’30 mins) P Ceccarelli (35 mins)

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran (Danie Poolman ’57);  Niyi Adeolokun, Rory Parata, Craig Ronaldson (Tom Farrell ’42),  Matt Healy; John Cooney,  Kieran Marmion (Caolin Blade ’54)

Denis Buckley (JP Cooney ‘37), Tom McCartney (Dave Heffernan ’46), Finlay Bealham (John Andress ’46); Lewis Stevenson,  James Cannon;  Sean O’Brien, Eoin McKeon, (James Connolly ’68), John Muldoon (Naulia Dawai ’46)

 

Zebre: Kurt Baker, Lloyd Greeff,  Edoardo Padovani,  Mattia Bellini, Guglielmo Palazzani;  Carlo Canna (Serafin Bordoli ’63), Marcello Violi (Carlo Engelbrecht ’70)

Andrea Lovotti (Andrea de Marchi ’55), Carlo Festuccia (Oliviero Fabiani ’46), Pietro Ceccarelli (Dario Chistolini ’59), Gideon Koegelenberg (Josh Furno ’46), Valerio Bernabo (Derick Minnie ’59). Maxime Mbanda, Johan Meyer (George Biagi ’74), Federico Ruzza.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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