GALLERY: Connacht survive shaky start to demolish Zebre

The Guinness PRO12 champions ran out 66-21 at the Sportsground

BY Cian Roche 15:26 Saturday 14 January 2017, 15:26 14 Jan 2017

Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie 

With less than two minutes on the clock, Matt Healy opened the scoring for Connacht and the fear was that their Champions Cup Pool 2 clash with Zebre would turn into a rout.

And although this proved the case - the match finishing 66-21 at the Sportsgrounds - the match didn't go to script from the outset. Zebre pegged back the Guinness PRO12 champions with a try of their own, before taking the lead after 15 minutes. The Italians led 14-7, Johan Meyer and Federico Ruzza with tries, and this looked like it could be a long afternoon for the Westerners

Pat Lam wouldn't have been impressed with what he was seeing, but as soon as Connacht found their rhythm they looked almost unstoppable. 

Their much talked about line-out held up and off this they built toward the majority of their scores. Securing ball after kicks to the corner, they used the maul to good effect and used this as a platform to touch down.

Back-to-back tries from John Cooney and Tiernan O'Halloran saw them pull into the lead and the bonus point was wrapped up when Finlay Bealham touched down from the back of another dominant Connacht maul.

Finaly Bealham secures the bonus point as Connacht run riot against Zebre. Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie  

Cooney's place-kicking was impressive throughout the match and perhaps one of the finer moments of the game came from his conversion, a beautifully judged sliced kick across the posts which drifted over.

Yellow cards for Lloyd Greeff and  Pietro Ceccarelli didn't help the Zebre cause and they were exposed twice more before the half was out. Craig Ronaldson and Marmion again on hand to punish some slack Zebre defending.

Tiernan O’Halloran scores his sides eighth try. Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

With the score at 40-14 at the break and a bonus point in the bag, the game looked dead in the water. Zebre tried to bring the same intensity they had led to two tries at the beginning of the game after the restart, but struggled to contain Connacht with just 13 men on the field. 

Again it look little over a minute and again Healy was on hand to restart the Connacht onslaught. A big win was needed to keep pressure on Wasps and Toulouse in Pool 2 and they delivered just that when O'Halloran notched his second try of the game. 

His third came not long after again and made the game 59-14 before Cooney stepped up again to add on the conversion. 

Replacement Caolin Blade scored the final try of the game to round off another chastening week for the week for the Italian side.

Dave Heffernan tackled by Carlo Engelbrecht. Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie 

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