Connacht rise to the top of the table with win over Treviso

Robbie Henshaw grabs a try on his return to action at the Sportsground

Connacht 33 Treviso 19

Connacht continued their remarkable start to the season, grabbing a fifth win on the trot at the Galway Sportsground and taking top spot in the Guinness Pro 12 League.

Without a win this season, Treviso, as always, provided stiff opposition for 60 minutes, scoring three tries into the bargain, but Connacht will feel well satisfied to have completed this opening block of league fixtures with six wins from seven.

Centre Craig Ronaldson posted the first of his 18 point haul with an early three-pointer from the 10 metre line after Treviso were forced offside at the breakdown, while Treviso provided warning signs in the scrum – grabbing two early penalties to spearhead their attack.


However Connacht’s work at the breakdown once again proved effective as they were able to turn over ball and counter-attack, forcing the Italian visitors offside and profiting once again through the boot of Ronaldson for a 6-0 lead after 20 minutes.

Treviso, proving proficient with ball in hand, with big lock Filo Paulo carrying well, were able to get front-foot ball, and when New Zealander Jayden Hayward's flat pass to right wing Andrea Pratichetti opened up a defensive gap, the fullback was on hand to finish off for the opening try after 26 minutes, but failing to convert.

Connacht should have replied with a similar effort before the break when Robbie Henshaw sent John Cooney through at pace, but referee Ian Davies was on hand to see the scrumhalf lose possession on the line. However, from the ensuing scrum, Connacht won a hard-earned penalty, which Ronaldson stroked over after 36 minutes. Two minutes later the home side won a second penalty in the scrum, but it was just outside Ronaldson's range, falling left, to leave Connacht in front by 9-5 at the break.

The home side were quick out of the blocks after the restart, with the backs attacking from right to left before Henshaw dived over in the right corner, with Ronaldson's touchline conversion extending Connacht's lead to 16-5. Within minutes, however, Treviso had also posted their second try, the forwards once again putting ball through hand until a superb break from replacement scrumhalf and Italian international Edoardo Gori, set up possession in the Connacht 22 for Hayward, who took a direct line to touch down. His conversion kept the Italians within touching distance,

A training move provided Connacht with their second try, but it cost replacement hooker Tom McCartney in the process. From a short lineout, John Muldoon quickly threw the ball back to McCartney, who charged home from the 22 to touch down, pulling his hamstring in the process. Ronaldson once again judged his conversion perfectly.

With an eye on a long trek to Siberia next week for the opening European Challenge fixtures with Krasnoyarsk, Lam used his his bench accordingly, including a first start for USA's World Cup outhalf AJ McGinty. Ronaldson added a penalty in the 71st minute before Matt Healy rounded off Connacht's scoring with the home side's third try, while Treviso's Gori bagged an 80th minute try.

CONNACHT: R Henshaw; T O'Halloran, B Aki, C Ronaldson, M Healy; J Carty, J Cooney; D Buckley, D Heffernan, N White; U Dillane, A Browne; J Muldoon (cpt), N Fox-Matamua, E McKeon.

Replacements: F Bealham for N White (32 mins), K Marmion for Cooney (37 mins), T McCartney for Heffernan (50 mins), D Heffernban for McCartney (53 mins), A Muldowney for Dillane (55 mins), E Masteron for Matamua (62 mins), AJ McGinty for Carty (63 mins), D Leader for O'Halloran (73 mins), C O'Donnell for Buckley (73 mins).

BENETTON TREVISO: J Hayward; A Pratichetti, T Iannone, E Bacchin, S Ragusi; L McLean, A Lucchese; M Zanusso, L Bigi, S Ferrari; T Paulo, J Montauriol; M Barbini, A Zanni (capt), A Steyn.

Replacements: E Gori for Lucchese (37 mins), F Filippetto for Ferrari (half-time), D Budd for Zanni (43 mins), D Giazzon for Bigi (46 mins), M Lazzaroni for Barbini (60 mins), M Muccignat for Zanussi (64 mins), S Christie for Bacchin (68 mins), A De Marchi for Paulo (78 mins).

Referee: I Davies (WRU).