Connacht open their campaign with a three-try win over Zebre

Connacht, under new Head Coach Pat Lam, got their 2013/14 campaign off to a winning start with a 25-16 win over Italian side Zebre.

Tries from Nathan White, Matt Healy and Fionn Carr as well as ten points from the boot of Dan Parks were enough to see away the visiting Italian outfit.

Five minutes into the season opener, Connacht’s Nathan White saw an opportunity when a Zebre line out ball was quickly intercepted by the tight head who ran the 20m to touch down. Parks missed the ensuing conversion kick and almost immediately, Zebre outhalf Luciano Orquera opened up his side’s scoring when Connacht failed to roll away in front of the posts.

Parks missed two of his own penalties – one short and one wide – half way through the first half but Connacht looked dominant in a superb piece of play from the entire team. The forward pack worked hard in the scrum on the right side of the field as winger Matt Healy waited patiently on the left wing. He was rewarded with a beautiful pass from Parks through to Carr who offloaded for Healy to beat his opposite number and touch down for the try. Parks’ conversion kick was on target for the extra two points.

Just before half time, Parks used his boot to pin Zebre back inside their own 22. Connacht turned over the Zebre scrum and with advantage, Parks, the league’s highest points’ scorer, smashed over the penalty to bring his side 15-3 up going into the break.

Half time score: Connacht 15 – 3 Zebre

It was a slow start to the second half with both sides making changes from the bench. Italian international Orquera kicked two penalties on the board before the hour mark as Zebre took advantage of Connacht’s indiscipline.

However, the visitors own indiscipline cost them a penalty when they were penalised for not releasing at the breakdown and Parks’ penalty kick was on target from just inside the half way line.

The only yellow card of the game went to replacement full back Matteo Praticetti who was sin binned for using his boot on Henshaw in an off the ball scuffle.

With just six minutes to go, Connacht were one man up and replacement scrum half Paul O’Donohoe dominated in what was a fantastic piece of play and pace from the 26-year-old. A quick one-two exchange between himself and winger Fionn Carr allowed Connacht’s highest try scorer and recent returnee to run clear of the white wash. Parks kicked the extras with ease.

It wasn’t all over however as replacement hooker Andrea Manici broke through for a final consolation try at the death. Orquera converted just before the full time whistle.

Full time score: Connacht 25 – 16 Zebre

Man of the Match: Robbie Henshaw, Connacht

Attendance: 4, 084

Connacht: 15 – 9: R. Henshaw, F. Carr, D. Poolman, E. Griffin, M. Healy, D. Parks, K. Marmion, 1 – 8: B. Wilkinson, J Harris-Wright, N. White, M. Swift, A. Browne, J. Muldoon, W. Faloon, G. Naoupu

Replacements: S Henry (for Harris-Wright, 55), R. Ah You (for Wilkinson, 71), R. Loughney (for White, 58), A. Muldowney (for Swift, 55), J. Heenan (for Naoupu, 58), P.O’Donohoe (for Marmion, 65), C. Ronaldson (for Parks, 76), T.O’Halloran (for Poolaman, 66)


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