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Connacht remain in Heineken hunt

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Jack Carty. Picture: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Jack Carty. Picture: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Jack Carty. Picture: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

CONNACHT got the required victory to keep themselves in the hunt for a Heineken Cup quarter-final place, as they ran out 20-3 winners over Zebre at the Sportsground.

Matt Healy and Robbie Henshaw scored tries either side of half- time and 20-year-old tournament debutant Jack Carty kicked the rest of the points for Pat Lam's men.

Carty kicked two penalties to Luciano Orquera's lone first-half effort, with winger Healy's first Heineken Cup try – scored while Zebre's Filippo Ferrarini was in the sin-bin – moving Connacht 13-3 ahead at the break.

Henshaw then touched down with the promise of more scores, but the concluding 37 minutes were scoreless as the hosts' bonus-point push failed to materialise.

The result is enough to keep Lam's charges in contention to reach the last eight, a scenario which is only possible if they beat Saracens at Allianz Park next Saturday and other results go their way.

Zebre had the better of a scrappy first quarter in Galway, but the kickers each missed their first shot at the posts.

A burst through midfield from Eoin Griffin set up a left-sided penalty for fly-half Carty but he sent his kick wide, while Orquera missed the target after an intercept from Kameli Ratuvou.

The Italians hit the front in the 16th minute when they won a scrum and their international fly-half punished Connacht for a maul infringement with the opening three points.

Fionn Carr flew through a gap to get the hosts into scoring range and Carty levelled matters with a 34-metre penalty from the left.

Carr was again involved just moments later before Henshaw's chip through bounced favourably for the Westerners.

Prop Nathan White was held up short after a powerful charge and Zebre flanker Ferrarini saw yellow for not rolling away.

Carty claimed the three points on offer and Connacht took control when man-of-the-match Healy scored the first try five minutes before the break.

Healy did extremely well to fend off Guglielmo Palazzani's initial tackle and Giulio Toniolatti also lost his grip on the 24-year-old as he crawled over in the left corner and Carty converted.

Zebre went further behind three minutes into the second half as Henshaw stepped his way over to the right of the posts after Swift's clever offload and an instinctive between-the-legs pass from Carty.

Carty's conversion made it 20-3 and the home crowd urged Connacht to cut loose, although the Italians fought valiantly right to the end.


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