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Connacht get rolling as Boyle brace helps Friend's men to bonus-point win

The western province scored five tries against Zebre to notch their first Pro14 win under Andy Friend.

Connacht 32

Zebre 13

Murray Kinsella reports from the Sportsground

ANDY FRIEND ENJOYED his first taste of Guinness Pro14 victory with Connacht on an evening when he also got a good feel for the kind of weather conditions that are so often associated with the Sportsground.

In persistent rain, Connacht bagged a bonus-point win against Michael Bradley’s disappointing Zebre, who never really fired a shot in attack. 

Paul Boyle runs in a try Paul Boyle was man of the match for Connacht. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Promising 21-year-old back row Paul Boyle, wearing the number eight shirt, touched down twice in another impressive performance, the Gorey man showing physical power, a notable work rate and some subtle skill around the pitch.

It was Boyle’s pass that sent Niyi Adeolokun over for Connacht’s first and final try, while scrum-half Caolin Blade and Eoin Griffin also dotted down – outside centre Griffin with a particularly smart finish from Jack Carty’s clever kick.

Connacht out-half Carty was strong in phase play but had an unsuccessful evening off the tee, leaving nine points untaken, though several of his kicks were in tough positions out wide.

The wet ball made the lineout a messy affair but Connacht’s scrum – with Finlay Bealham and Denis Buckley on fire – was utterly dominant, while new centre Kyle Godwin quietly underlined his class out in the backline.

Two second-half yellow cards didn’t aid Zebre’s cause just when they looked like coming back into the tie and though Connacht only scored five points in the time the Italians were down to 13 men, that spell signalled the end of any outside hope Bradley’s men had of turning things around.

Boyle’s brace had helped Connacht into a 17-3 half-time lead and they will take pleasure in having sealed the bonus point before the final quarter, this first win of the season helping to ease the frustration of letting a winning position slip against Glasgow last weekend.

Friend’s men now look towards a trip to Edinburgh next Friday for his first away Pro14 game in charge.

Eoin Griffin congratulates Paul Boyle on his try The rain come down heavily in Galway. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Connacht got on the scoreboard in the second minute after Blade was blocked as he attempted to pressure Zebre out-half Carlo Canna’s exiting kick, with Carty slotting the resulting penalty.

Their first try was a lethal turnover score, with Blade nudging the ball ahead when Zebre wing Mattia Bellini spilt it, before Buckley played scrum-half and hooker Dave Heffernan tipped-on a skillful pass to the charging Boyle, who showed his power to ride a tackle and stretch out for the five points.

Carty made it seven but while Connacht’s scrum was on top, the wet weather saw their lineout failing repeatedly until they finally got a drive on at a close-range maul, laying the platform for Boyle to barge over for his second try.

Carty was on target with the conversion again, before Zebre finally got on the scoreboard thanks to a Canna penalty after Connacht came offside at a ruck in their 22.

The Italians had a shout for a try of their own in the closing minutes of the half, debutant flanker Matu Tevi driving for the line. However, the TMO review showed that loosehead prop Andrea Lovotti had taken Connacht skipper Jarrad Butler out beyond the preceding ruck and referee Llyod Linton chalked off the possible score.

Carty had a chance to extend Connacht’s lead with the last action of the first-half – his forward pack winning another scrum penalty – but his shot at goal was wide and they had to settle for 17-3 at the break.

Jarrad Butler scores his second try despite the tackle from George Biagi Boyle scored two first-half tries. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Zebre tighthead Giosué Zilocchi was in the sin bin just five minutes into the second half, Linton finally losing patience with the Italians’ concession of penalties at scrum time.

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He was followed onto the cosy new sin bin couch at the Sportsground very swiftly by hooker Oliviero Fabiani, who hammered a cheap late tackle into the back of Buckley after he had passed.

With Zebre down to 13 men, Connacht applied pressure in the visitors’ 22 and off yet another strong scrum, Blade picked and darted into the right corner for an unconverted try and a 22-3 lead.

Canna added a second penalty to briefly stem the tide but Connacht’s bonus-point try arrived in the 60th minute, with Eoin Griffin intelligently stooping to gather a slick Carty grubber kick and sliding into the left corner.

Replacement hooker Shane Delahunt had what looked like a good try chalked off in the 67th minute as Linton adjudged Connacht to have obstructed Zebre defenders, but sub wing Adeolokun soon showed good strength to finish from a Boyle pass in the same right corner.

An injury to Boyle meant Connacht had to finish the game with 14 men – their entire bench having already been sent on – and they conceded a consolation score to Giulio Bisegni but the home crowd went home happy.

Connacht scorers:

Tries: Paul Boyle [2], Caolin Blade, Eoin Griffin, Niyi Adeolokun

Conversions: Jack Carty [2 from 5]

Penalties: Jack Carty [1 from 2]

Zebre scorers:

Try: Giulio Bisegni

Conversion: Francois Brummer

Penalties: Carlo Canna [2 from 2]

CONNACHT: Tiernan O’Halloran; Cian Kelleher (Niyi Adeolokun ’64), Eoin Griffin, Kyle Godwin (Craig Ronaldson ’70), Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Caolin Blade (Kieran Marmion ’49); Denis Buckley (Conán O’Donnell ’61), Dave Heffernan (Shane Delahunt ’55), Finlay Bealham (Dominic Robertson-McCoy ’59); Gavin Thornbury (Quinn Roux ’63), Quinn Roux (James Cannon ’61); Sean O’Brien (Colby Fainga’a ’49), Jarrad Butler (captain), Paul Boyle (off ’78).

ZEBRE: Edoardo Padovani;  Mattia Bellini, Giulio Bisegni, Nicolas De Battista (Tommaso Boni ’59), Giovanbattista Venditti (Roberto Tenga ’48); Carlo Canna (Francois Brummer ’59), Marcello Violi (Guglielmo Palazzani ’59); Andrea Lovotti (HIA – Daniele Rimpelli ’6 to ’16), Oliviero Fabiani (YC ’47), Giosué Zilocchi (YC ’45); David Sisi, George Biagi (captain) (Apisai Tauyavuca ’61); Matu Tevi (Jimmy Tuivaiti ‘HT), Johan Meyer, Renato Giammarioli (Massimo Ceciliani ’48).

Referee: Lloyd Linton [SRU].

Attendance: 4,056.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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