While Matt Healy set the tone for the game with a try after one minute, Zebre showed their attacking strengths and got two tries in quick succession in the first quarter, each on the back of a solid scrum in the 22.
But Connacht found their rhythm and shape and the four-try bonus point was secured today after 27 minutes when Finlay Bealham scored from a five-metre rolling maul to add to earlier backline scores from Healy, John Cooney and Tiernan O’Halloran.
Kieran Marmion and Craig Ronaldson also crossed the whitewash before the break with Cooney, playing out of position at outhalf today, knocking over five from six conversions.
Half time: Connacht 40 – 14 Zebre
Pat Lam’s man came out firing after the break and Healy and O’Halloran got over for a second try each within three minutes, Cooney converting on both occasions.
Zebre got over for a late consolation score on the hour mark but with Marmion and his replacement Caolin Blade adding to the tally, the game was out of reach.
Full time: Connacht 66 – 21 Zebre
Referee: Tom Foley (England)
Man of the Match: Tiernan O’Halloran
Attendance: 5, 607
Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran (Danie Poolman ’57); Niyi Adeolokun, Rory Parata, Craig Ronaldson (Tom Farrell ’42), Matt Healy; John Cooney, Kieran Marmion (Caolin Blade ’54)
Denis Buckley (JP Cooney ‘37), Tom McCartney (Dave Heffernan ’46), Finlay Bealham (John Andress ’46); Lewis Stevenson, James Cannon; Sean O’Brien, Eoin McKeon, (James Connolly ’68), John Muldoon (Naulia Dawai ’46)
Zebre: Kurt Baker, Lloyd Greeff, Edoardo Padovani, Mattia Bellini, Guglielmo Palazzani; Carlo Canna (Serafin Bordoli ’63), Marcello Violi (Carlo Engelbrecht ’70)
Andrea Lovotti (Andrea de Marchi ’55), Carlo Festuccia (Oliviero Fabiani ’46), Pietro Ceccarelli (Dario Chistolini ’59), Gideon Koegelenberg (Josh Furno ’46), Valerio Bernabo (Derick Minnie ’59). Maxime Mbanda, Johan Meyer (George Biagi ’74), Federico Ruzza.