Connacht make it four out of four against Zebre
Connacht 23 Zebre 19:Connacht succeeded in winning their third RaboDirect Pro 12 game on the trot when they out-fought Italian visitors Zebre last evening.
As expected against these gritty Italians, it was hard fought, with long periods in the game on a knife edge, but Connacht wrested control in the final 10 minutes to claim their seventh win of the season and their fourth over the Parma side.
Connacht coach Eric Elwood said having already beaten the side three times this season, there was huge expectation on Connacht.
“We were a bit nervy tonight and people expected us to win, but thankfully we came out on the right side again,” he said.
“It’s been a good block of games for us and after three good victories, we relish the challenge of Munster next time.”
Last weekend Miah Nikora, who has penned another year’s contract with the province, kicked the necessary points for victory over Cardiff, and last night Dan Parks was back at No 10 to add a drop goal and a 80th minute penalty to seal a well deserved victory in front of 4,856 supporters.
Connacht started at lightning speed and were two tries up within the opening 20 minutes. Gavin Duffy set up the first within two minutes, taking Parks inside pass at speed before the supporting No 8 Eoin McKeon crossed with Parks adding the extras.
Although Zebre opened their tally when outhalf Paolo Buso kicked a 17th minute penalty, Connacht replied when Duffy finished off a patient build-up through the phases for a 14 - 3 lead.
It was short lived. By the break Zebre had closed the gap to a single point with a Buso penalty and conversion to right wing Leonardo Sarto’s try.
The second half became a something of a dogfight after Parks had stretched the lead to 17-13, but increasingly the home side got on the wrong side of the referee, resulting in Ronan Loughney, only on the pitch as a replacement, being sinbinned after Connacht had collapsed a maul at a second warning. With Buso once again narrowing the gap to a one-point game, Zebre then took the lead through Italian international Gonzalo Garcia when Connacht were penalised in the scrum. Not for the first time were Connacht forced to dig deep against deep against this side, and helped by Bergamasco’s late sinbinning, they wrested control to claim valuable home victory.