Sunday 4 December 2016

Lam calls on Connacht to finish job against Ospreys in Euro push

Zebre 10 Connacht 40

Joe Graham

Published 11/05/2015 | 02:30

Matt Healy, Connacht, breaks through the Zebre defence to score his side's second try of the game. Guinness PRO12, Round 21, Zebre v Connacht (Max Pratelli / SPORTSFILE)
Matt Healy, Connacht, breaks through the Zebre defence to score his side's second try of the game. Guinness PRO12, Round 21, Zebre v Connacht (Max Pratelli / SPORTSFILE)
Bundee Aki, Connacht, releases the ball under pressure from the Zebre defence. Guinness PRO12, Round 21, Zebre v Connacht (Max Pratelli / SPORTSFILE)
Tiernan O'Halloran, Connacht, is tackled by Luciano Orquera, left, and Matteo Pratichetti, Zebre. Guinness PRO12, Round 21, Zebre v Connacht (Max Pratelli / SPORTSFILE)

Connacht coach Pat Lam has called on his men to produce a huge finish to the season against leaders Ospreys next Saturday and make a late bid to claim a place in the Champions Cup.

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Edinburgh's loss away to Dragons opened up an opportunity for Connacht and Lam's men ran in six tries against Zebre to give themselves a shot of at least claiming seventh place.

That would see them into a play-off with Gloucester, with the winners of that tie then playing the team which finishes in seventh place in France to decide the last remaining spot for next season's Champions Cup competition.

But while Connacht produced the goods in Parma on Saturday, they now need to lower the high-flying Ospreys at the Sportsground to give themselves a shot at qualification.

"It's up to the boys to do the job. We have to have a really good build-up, get back home and build up to what is a massive game for us," Lam said.

"The Connacht people know how big this is that we go to the last round of the Pro12 and they know how much is riding on it and that's fantastic and it's at home.

"Ospreys, who beat Glasgow convincingly, are coming but we are now ahead of Edinburgh," the coach added.

Lam said he was pleased with the way they ran in six tries against a Zebre side with everything to play for in their battle for the Italian Champions Cup spot.

"We knew with it being Mauro Bergamasco's last game that they were very much up for it.

"We also knew that they would be up for it because they were fighting hard for their spot in the Champions Cup too.

"The boys knew it was just a case of being disciplined enough right across the board to look after the ball and apply pressure. That was the main message," added Lam.

Connacht got on top from the outset and were well on their way to a bonus-point win when they ran in three tries to lead by 21-10 at the interval.

Scrum-half John Cooney got the first of two tries to set them on their way, with Matt Healy also crossing for a try.

Cooney got his second try before the break and the key thing for Connacht then was to secure the bonus point after the restart.

"The ten minutes before half-time was crucial for us," added Lam.

"It took us too long to get that try, we wanted to get that within the first ten minutes but once we got it I knew that once we got that extra score then we could kick on."

Eoghan Masterson wrapped up the bonus point with another try as the Connacht pack turned the screw after 55 minutes.

And Connacht finished in style with Tiernan O'Halloran and Shane O'Leary completing the rout for the Westerners to get their Champions Cup aspirations back on track and ensure they have something to play for right down to the last game of the campaign.

Zebre - D Berryman; G Venditti, M Pratichetti, G Garcia, M Visentin (Mirco Bergamasco 53); L Orquera (A Chillon 74), B Leonard (G Palazzani 74); M Aguero (A De Marchi 62), A Manici (O Fabiani 65), D Chistolini (L Redolfini 56); Q Geldenhuys, V Bernabò (J Sarto 74); F Cristiano (D Chistolini 65, A Mahu 74), Mauro Bergamasco (capt), A Van Schalkwyk.

Connacht - T O'Halloran; D Poolman, R Henshaw, B Aki (S O'Leary 74), M Healy; J Carty (C McKeon 61), J Cooney (K Marmion 48); D Buckley (JP Cooney 61), T McCartney (D Heffernan 63), R Ah You (F Bealham 63); U Dillane (A Browne 52), A Muldowney; J Muldoon (capt), E Masterson, E McKeon (G Naoupu 56).

ref - I Davies (WRU)

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