Bryan Keane/INPHO Connacht’s Finlay Bealham and Johan Meyer of Zebre in action.
# Italian Job Done
Disappointment for hosts Connacht as they fall to second defeat of season to Zebre
The game finished 11-19 at the Sportsground.

Connacht 11

Zebre 19

By John Fallon at the Sportsground

CONNACHT FELL TO a second defeat of the season to Zebre when an error-ridden performance was punished by the Italians.

Zebre finished with 13 men after having two players binned in the closing stages but they were well worth their victory.

Former Connacht coach Michael Bradley was back at the Sportsground along with two former players, Ciaran Gaffney and Rory Parata.

But Gaffney’s night lasted just seven minutes after he picked up an injury which forced him to be carried off.

Craig Ronaldson got Connacht off the mark with a penalty after 17 minutes, but it was Zebre who struck for the opening try.

Winger Gabriele Di Giulio made most of the hard ground before setting up No.8 Renato Giammarioli and the Italian international raced in to score near the posts.

Italian fly-half Carlo Canna converted to make it 7-3 and there was a let-off for Connacht when Di Giulio scored in the right corner on the half hour but was whistled back when the TMO spotted a forward pass from Canna in the build-up.

Connacht had a chance to reduce the deficit but Ronaldson’s penalty from 45 metres did not hit the target.

But he reduced the gap to the minimum at the break with a penalty in front of the posts after a grubber from Caolin Blade was taken back over his own line by his scrum-half counterpart Guglielmo Palazzani to leave it 7-6 at the interval.

Zebre enjoyed the better start to the second-half and were rewarded for going to the left corner with a penalty with a try on the opposite side after an eleven-phase move, with Di Giulio getting over to score.

Connacht coach Kieran Keane drafted in Irish internationals Kieran Marmion and Quinn Roux along with team captain John Muldoon to try rescue the game.

Guglielmo Palazzani, Matt Healy and Gabriele Di Giulio Bryan Keane / INPHO The game finished 11-19. Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

But it was Zebre who pushed further ahead when a clearance from Marmion was charged down and skipper George Biagi set up replacement prop Andrea De Marchi for Zebre’s third try, which Canna converted to make it 19-6 after 65 minutes.

Zebre were reduced to 14 men for the final eight minutes when flanker Maxime Mbanda was binned with a penalty count at 17-6 in Connacht’s favour.

And they made the extra man count immediately, going to the right corner before switching across for full-back Darragh Leader to score.

But Ronaldson was off target with the conversion to leave eight points between them going into the closing stages.

Parata was binned in the closing stages but the Connacht lineout, in disarray throughout, coughed up a five-metre chance in the final play and Connacht didn’t even get a bonus point.

Try: Leader
Pens: Ronaldson (2)
Tries: Giammarioli, Di Giulio, De Marchi
Cons: Canna (2)

Connacht: Darragh Leader; Cian Kelleher, Eoin Griffin, Tom Farrell (Pita Akhi ’60), Matt Healy; Craig Ronaldson, Caolin Blade (Kieran Marmion ’51); Denis Coulson (Peter McCabe ’65), Tom McCartney (Dave Heffernan ’65), Finlay Bealham (Conor Carey ’66, Bealham ’75)); Gavin Thornbury (Quinn Roux ’51), James Cannon; Eoaghan Masterson (John Muldoon ’52), Naulia Dawai (John Muldoon ‘7-14), Sean O’Brien.

Zebre: Ciaran Gaffney (Serafin Bordoli ‘7); Gabriele Di Giulio, Giulio Bisegni, Faialaga Afamasaga, Rory Parata; Carlo Canna, Guglielmo Palazzani; Cruze Ah-Nau (Andrea De Marchi ’61), Olivero Fabiani (Tommaso D’Apice ’69), Dario Chistolini (Dario Tenga ’51); James Tucker (David Sisi ’51), George Biagi; Johan Meyer, Maxime Mbandà, Renato Giammarioli (Derick Minnie, ’75).

Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland).

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