Round 2 of Connacht’s Heineken Cup campaign saw Pat Lam’s men take a 33 – 6 win over Italian side Zebre in Parma. Following last week’s narrow defeat at home to Saracens, this victory keeps Connacht in touch in Pool 3. 

A try in each half from George Naoupu and Mata Fifita both satisfyingly came from training ground lineout moves while Man of the Match Dan Parks kicked 23 points superbly.

lineout moves while Man of the Match Dan Parks kicked 23 points superbly.

Zebre’s  six points were kicked by outhalf Luciano Orquera through a penalty in each half. 

Connacht won a penalty straight from the kick off and Parks was there to open up the scoring. His opposite number Orquera wasn’t far behind in leveling the score after 5 minutes.

But Parks’ quickly doubled his tally when Zebre were penalised for being offside. The visitors, however, were put under intense pressure from the home side who passed the ball from left to right with ease. A fantastic clearance kick from Samoan international James So’oialo, on his first start for Connacht, relieved some pressure aided by Parks’ who continued to produce on target kicks to touch. 

Forwards Coach Dan McFarland will have been pleased with his packs ability to pull off a well-rehearsed move on the 30th minute. Through a dummy from Craig Clarke, a shortened lineout move found Naoupu who was able to crash over from close range and touch down with an outstretched arm. Parks added the extras to bring his side 10 points up.

Connacht looked to have scored again moments later when some brilliant passing found So’oialo through Danie Poolman but the South African winger was ruled to have had a foot in touch before the pass to his teammate.

Before the break, Parks added two more penalties to make it five from five successful kicks and Connacht went in 16 points up at half time.

The 120-strong traveling Connacht support could be heard throughout the stadium with The Fields of Athenry.

Half time: Zebre 3 – 19 Connacht

Zebre came out stronger from the restart and looked in prime position with a scrum 5 metres from the Connacht line. After a number of resets and opportunities, the Italians got little return for their added pressure and frustration started to set in.

Ten minutes into the second half and Connacht were penalised for offside. Orquera reduced the deficit with a well-struck penalty kick.

Two more penalties were slotted by Parks within three minutes and Head Coach Pat Lam started to make some changes on the field with Aly Muldowney coming on for Connacht’s longest serving player Michael Swift.

Stellar defense kept the home side out as Zebre continued to threaten the Connacht line. A superb clearance kick from Kieran Marmion found touch and allowed Connacht to fight for more points.

Parks kicked his seventh successful penalty of the day on 62 mins to make it 6 – 28.

Replacement centre Dave McSharry made his first Connacht appearance in exactly nine months, coming on for Irish international Robbie Henshaw while Mata Fifita replaced Jake Heenan in the back row.

Fifita made a brilliant contribution to the scoreboard on 71 minutes, running in Connacht’s second try from another well-worked lineout. Parks was denied a 100% record as his difficult conversion kick struck the right post.

Zebre continued to push for points but Connacht refused to give them an inch and ensured their defense was airtight.

At the full time whistle, the scoreboard read Zebre 6 Connacht 33.

Zebre: Ruggero Trevisan, Dion Berryman, Tommaso Iannone, Gonzalo Garcia, David Odiete, Luciano Orquera, Brendon Leonard, Matias Aguero, Tommaso D’Apice, Dario Chistolini, Mike Van Vuren, Marco Bortolami (capt), Mauro Bergamasco, Dries van Schalkwyk, Samu Vunisa,

Replacements: Davide Giazzon, Andrea de Marchi, Luciano Leibson, Emiliano Caffini, Filippo Cristiano, Alberto Chillon, Kameli Ratuvou, Leonardo Sarto.

Connacht: James So’oialo, Danie Poolman, Robbie Henshaw, Craig Ronaldson, Matt Healy, Dan Parks, Kieran Marmion, Brett Wilkinson, Sean Henry, Rodney Ah You, Michael Swift (capt), Craig Clarke, Andrew Browne, Jake Heenan, George Naoupu.

Replacements: Jason Harris Wright (for Henry, 45), JP Cooney (for Wilkinson, 67), Ronan Loughney (for Ah You, 46), Aly Muldowney (for Swift, 54), Mata Fifita (for Heenan, 66), Paul O’Donohoe (for Marmion, 71), Dave McSharry (for Henshaw, 66), Gavin Duffy (for So’oialo, 42).


Gallery: Connacht v Lions