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Connacht edge towards Champions Cup places with bonus-point win

It’s a fourth win in a row for Pat Lam’s side.

Connacht's Lewis Stevenson scores his sides fifth try.
Connacht's Lewis Stevenson scores his sides fifth try.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Connacht 33

Zebre 3

John Fallon reports from the Sportsground

CONNACHT’S DRIVE FOR a Champions Cup spot gained further momentum in driving rain at a barely playable Sportsground.

A fourth win in a row has enhanced Connacht’s hopes of making it to Europe’s premier event when new coach Kieran Keane arrives in Galway in the summer.

The summer seemed a long way off at the Sportsground as a day of heavy rain showed no sign of easing up.

Given the dreadful conditions, it was vital that Connacht got an early stranglehold on proceedings and they did that when Niyo Adeolokun struck for the opening try after seven minutes.

It came from a five-metre penalty in front of the posts which was worked wide through the half-backs, John Cooney and debutant Steve Crosbie, and the Nigerian-born winger supplied the finish.

Cooney added the difficult conversion from the right but both sides struggled in the appalling conditions and regular stoppages for basic errors became the order of the night.

Kieran Marmion is tackled by Tommaso Castello and Lloyd Greef Connacht's Kieran Marmion is tackled by Tommaso Castello and Lloyd Greef of Zebre. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Flanker Naulia Dawai made it 12-0 after 26 minutes when he got through some dreadful defending to score in the left corner just minutes after a touchdown by Eoin McKeon was ruled out for impeding Zebre scrum-half Guglielmo Palazzani.

Palazzani cut the gap with a penalty five minutes after the restart but was then off target with one from in front of the posts, while replacement tighthead Bart Le Roux knocked on as he tried to touch the ball down over the Connacht line.

John Muldoon then entered the fray and sorted matters out, tapping and driving over for a try after 62 minutes after Kieran Marmion, having just returned from a HIA, had broken superbly from deep.

All that was left to be completed was a fourth try and that came four minutes later through a penalty try after a lineout maul was dragged down as Connacht headed for the line.

Lewis Stevenson completed the rout with their fifth try as they kept the opposition without a try for the second game in a row.

A Connacht fan shelters from the rain A Connacht fan shelters from the rain. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Scorers for Connacht:Tries: Niyi Adeolokun, Naulia Dawai, John Muldoon, L Stevenson, Penalty try, Conversions: John Cooney 1 /2, Tiernan O’Halloran 1 /1, Jack Carty 1 /1, Craig Ronaldson 1 /1.
Scorers for Zebre: Penalties: Guglielmo Palazzani 1 /2

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Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran (Craig Ronaldson ’71); Niyi Adeolokun, Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Stacey Ili; Steve Crosbie (Jack Carty ’63), John Cooney (Kieran Marmion ’40-54, 59); Ronan Loughney (Denis Buckley ’54), Tom McCartney (Dave Heffernan ’71), Dominic Robertson-McCoy (Finlay Bealham ’54); Lewis Stevenson, Andrew Browne (Quinn Roux ’68); Eoin McKeon, Naulia Dawai, Eoghan Masterson (John Muldoon ’57).

Zebre: Dion Berryman (Carlo Engelbrecht ’71); Mattia Bellini, Tommaso Boni (Matteo Pratichetti ’59), Tommaso Castello, Lloyd Greeff; Serafin Bordoli, Guglielmo Palazzani; Bruno Postiglioni (Andrea de Marchi ’57), Oliviero Fabiani (Tommaso d’Apice ’59), Dario Chistolini (Bartholomeus le Roux ’49); Quintin Geldenhuys(Matteo Archetti ’67), Valerio Bernabo (Josh Furno ’49); Matteo Cornelli, Gideon Koegelenberg, Federico Ruzza.

Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR).

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John Fallon

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