Bradley's boys finish strongly to punish Connacht
Zebre 24 Connacht 10
Former Connacht coach Michael Bradley enjoyed the bragging rights in Parma as his Zebre side carved out a deserved success. His men finished strongly to ensure that Connacht didn't even have the consolation of a bonus point but, in truth, it was nothing more than Kieran Keane's men deserved after a dismal display.
Zebre led 6-0 at the end of an error-strewn opening half where the Italians started and finished the half well, with Connacht enjoying the bulk of the possession in between.
Zebre, featuring seven who played for Italy against the Springboks last week, edged in front after 11 minutes when one of those internationals, Carlo Canna, converted a penalty in front of the posts.
But Connacht got on top and had ample possession to have this reflected on the scoreboard.
However, they created few chances and when Steve Crosbie opted for the posts, he missed both penalties, one from the right and the other from a much more favourable angle.
In between, Connacht went to the left corner with a penalty but while the ball was safely won and recycled, they were unable to break down the home defence.
And it was Zebre who finished the half on a high. South African Johan Meyer broke through four tackles in midfield and while he was nabbed short of the line, the ball was recycled several times and it seemed that left winger Giovanbattista Venditti got over in the left corner, but TMO Leo Colgan judged that Tiernan O'Halloran did enough to prevent the ball being grounded.
The decision of the Irish official was jeered by the home following, who were far from happy with the number of scrum penalties going Connacht's way.
The relief was short-lived for Connacht as referee George Clancy was playing advantage and he went back and binned flanker Eoghan Masterson before Canna tapped over the penalty to lead 6-0 at the break.
Connacht got a big break four minutes after the restart when Zebre failed to clear their lines and Tom Farrell stepped in to hack the ball from inside the 22 and race through and score his third try of the campaign.
Crosbie added the conversion to make it 7-6.
Canna and Jack Carty swapped penalties to leave Connacht ahead by a point but then the impressive Johan Meyer wrapped up the issue with a try, with Canna adding a drop goal before they sealed a deserved success when Gio Venditti touched down in the closing minutes to complete the misery for Connacht.
Scorers - Zebre: J Meyer, G Venditti tries; C Canna con, 3 pens, drop-goal. Connacht: T Farrell try; S Crosbie con; J Carty pen.
Zebre: M Minozzi; M Bellini (C Gaffney 78), G Bisegni, T Boni, G Venditti; C Canna, M Violi (G Palazzani 69); A Lovotti, O Fabiani, D Chistolini (E Bello 57); L Krumov, G Biagi (D Sisi 57); M Mbanda (J Sarto 78), J Meyer, R Giammarioli.
Connacht: T O'Halloran; C Kelleher, P Ahki, T Farrell, M Healy; S Crosbie (J Carty 59), K Marmion (J Mitchell 59); D Buckley, S Delahunt (D Heffernan 72), F Bealham (C Carey 72); U Dillane, J Cannon; E Masterson, J Connolly (N Dawai 54), J Muldoon.
Referee: G Clancy (IRFU)
Sunday Indo Sport