Connacht had the try bonus point after 47 minutes played at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi but had to fight off a tough Zebre side for the win, the hosts pushing Pat Lam’s close with four tries of their own scored.  

Man of the Match Matt Healy scored a hat trick and it was the third from the season’s top try scorer that secured the important bonus point early in the second half.

Craig Ronaldson was up to the kicking tee on four minutes when Kieran Marmion and Eoin McKeon combined to smash into Zebre’s 22 and win the penalty which the inside centre converted.

Zebre outhalf Kelly Haimona leveled the scores less than ten minutes later after a heavy spell of pressure from the home side in Connacht territory.

But moments later, Healy crossed for his first with Bundee Aki and Tiernan O’Halloran combining with good hands to put the winger in space. Ronaldson added the extras to make it 3 – 10.

Zebre went back up the field and pulled a penalty when Connacht were pinged for being off their feet. Haimona kicked his second penalty to reduce the deficit.

But Connacht extended the lead minutes later when Ireland international Kieran Marmion took a quick tap penalty to reach over the whitewash, Ronaldson converting.

Zebre continued to attack and got their score just before the break, taking advantage of Connacht’s misfired lineout to allow flanker Johan Meyer crash over and Haimona followed up with the conversion.

Half time: Zebre 13 – 17 Connacht

Ronaldson had a chance to extend the lead immediately after the break but his attempt rebounded off the post.

Soon after though, Healy was in for  his third try, taking a great pass from MacGinty. Ronaldson’s conversion took the score out to 24-13.

Zebre refused to give up and got a try back within a minute, Haimona stretching out for the dot down before the Italy outhalf converted his own score.

But Healy responded immediately and Healy completed the hat trick – and the bonus point try – after latching onto a MacGinty chip and Ronaldson’s extras extended Connacht’s lead to 11 points.

The tries kept flowing, first an intercept try for Andries van Schalkwyk who ran the length of the field to score for Zebre.

Three minutes later, Connacht wing Niyi Adeolokun got in the act following a long pass from O’Halloran, and MacGinty converted before slotting a penalty.

The win was secured when MacGinty teed up Adeolokun for his second try of the game – leaving the score at 48-27 on 66 minutes.

Zebre ensured they took their own try-bonus point when replacement lock Federico Ruzza crashed over.

MacGinty then continued his perfect form with the boot by scoring another penalty, and with ten minutes remaining that was the last score of the night.

Full time: Zebre 34 – 51 Connacht

Referee: Gary Conway (IRFU)

Man of the Match: Matt Healy

 

 

 

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