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Saturday 19 April 2014

Parks pulls strings for timely Connacht boost

Connacht 18
Benetton Treviso 3

This was an endurance test in the swirling wind and incessant rain at the Sportsground last night but only one team came to the battle with sufficient armoury.



Connacht, without a league win since dismantling Leinster in September, rolled up their sleeves and worked non-stop for 80 minutes to carve out a win which was badly needed after failing to score a try in either of their last two games.

The appalling weather made it almost impossible to play but Connacht's victory was never really in doubt, even if it took them some time to stamp their authority on the scoreboard.

South African Danie Poolman scored on his first start as Connacht head into the break with a morale-boosting win.

And captain Gavin Duffy announced his return from injury to score the second try late in the game as Connacht carved out a deserved success.

But once more it was the influence of Dan Parks which ensured Connacht prevailed with the former Scotland out-half controlling matters.

He was instrumental in setting up the opening try when his grubber caused mayhem in the visitors' defence and when Robbie Henshaw got a boot to the ball, Poolman had the simple task of collecting it and diving over after 28 minutes.

Parks somehow managed to land the near impossible conversion from the right touchline. That helped Connacht lead 13-0 at the break after Parks had got them off the mark after five minutes with a penalty from 30 metres.

He doubled the lead after 14 minutes when he made no mistake from 38 metres.

Connacht continued on the offensive after the restart with Parks constantly forcing Treviso on the back foot with some astute kicking which forced the Italians to build from deep.

But with Connacht making their tackles stick as Andrew Browne, Johnny O'Connor and Michael Swift made the hits, Treviso struggled to threaten.

Indeed, for a time it seemed that Connacht would keep a team scoreless for only the second time ever in the competition and the first since 2001, but Treviso finally got off the mark going into the final quarter when out-half Alberto de Bernardo landed a fine penalty from 40 metres.

That left it 13-3 going into the final quarter but referee Leighton Hodges finally lost patience and sin-binned replacement Giulio Toniolatti just when it seemed Treviso were about to mount a serious onslaught.

Treviso had a chance to get within bonus-point range but De Bernardo hit the post with a penalty from 40 metres 11 minutes from time.

That was as close as they got as Connacht regrouped and closed out the game. Parks was off target with an ambitious penalty into the wind from 44 metres seven minutes from time. But they continued to press and sealed the issue with a second try a minute later.

John Muldoon created the opening with a good break up through the middle with Andrew Browne on his shoulder and when it was spun wide on the right, Duffy squeezed over in the corner just moments after coming on.

Parks made a decent effort at the difficult conversion but in the end it was not required as Treviso headed home empty-handed and Connacht go into the break on the back of a morale-boosting win.

Treviso came in search of a late consolation score but by then Connacht were firmly in control and dealt with anything thrown at them with ease as they kept their line intact for only the second time this season in the league.

Scorers -- Connacht: D Poolman, G Duffy tries; D Parks con, 2 pens. Benetton Treviso: A Di Bernardo pen.

Connacht: R Henshaw; T O'Halloran (G Duffy 73), D Poolman, D McSharry, F Vainikolo; D Parks (M Nikora 79), K Marmion (D Moore 79); D Buckley (R Ah You 67), J Harris-Wright (A Flavin 60), N White (R Loughney 70); M Swift, M McCarthy (M Kearney 56); A Browne, J O'Connor (J Muldoon 53), E McKeon.

Benetton Treviso: B Williams (J Ambrosini 76); A Pratichetti, C Loamanu, A Vilk (E Galon 79), A Esposito (G Toniolatti 52); A Di Bernardo, F Semenzto; M Muccignat (A De Marchi 59), F Sbaraglini (E Ceccato 59), J Roux (I Fernadez-Rouyet 59); M Fuser, C Van Zyl; M Vosawai, V Bernabo, M Filippucci (C Maistri 76).

Referee: L Hodges (WRU).

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