Connacht coach promises more from his side after victory over Zebre
Coach not satisfied with the amount of errors and discipline
Connacht’s Nathan White scores his side’s first try. Photograph: INPHO/James Crombie
Connacht coach Pat Lam is promising more from his side after a merited victory over Zebre in a Pro 12 opener at the Galway Sportsground.
Three tries to one – a consolation effort from the Italians at the death – and 10 points from outhalf Dan Parks’ boot was enough for the home side to overcome a tricky assignment against a side still searching for their first league win.
However, Lam, in his first match in charge since taking over the reins from Eric Elwood, said he was “proud” of his team but not satisfied with the amount of errors and discipline, particularly in the opening periods of both halves.
“Put it down to first game, guys excited, home game and the conditions, but, when we nail it down some of the errors we made were pretty basic.
“We need to apply our commitment and heart to our skill level and execution, and we will get better.”
The first try came after just four minutes – an opportunistic effort from alert prop Nathan White, who bounded down the left touchline after catching the Zebre defence napping.
While a solid forward platform laid the foundations and No 8 George Naoupu was an influential ball carrier, Connacht’s backline always looked threatening in attack, led by man of the match Robbie Henshaw.
And when the pack had Zebre on the back foot from a maul, left wing Matt Healy, in his fourth competitive game, finished superbly after a skilful assist from Fionn Carr. Parks, having missed three first-half efforts into the wind, added the conversion to put Connacht into a 15-3 lead at half time.
Connacht, however, struggled to get out of their own half after the restart, but good defence limited Zebre to two successful penalty kicks from their outhalf Luciano Orquera.
A Parks’ 62nd minute penalty provided some breathing space, before Carr grabbed his first try since returning to the province in the 74th minute.
“It was good to get the win – the off-the-ball stuff, guys working, scrambling to make tackles, guys getting up off the floor, I am proud of the effort and commitment, but we have to do some work this week because Cardiff are coming off a loss and we only have a six-day turnaround,” he said.
Lam is planning Friday’s trip to Cardiff without new signing Craig Clarke, who missed Saturday’s opener with a calf injury.
“I do not want to take the risk in a long season. We have a good squad, and with what’s coming ahead it would be silly to try him.
“I don’t want to take risks if they [players] come back before they should.”