Connacht's blushes saved by severe storm in Zebre clash
This was not how Connacht's defence of their Pro12 crown was supposed to go; three weekends in and they are still without a point after a dismal start took a bizarre switch in Italy last night.
The Sportsground has seen some horrendous weather over the years but a league or European game has never fallen victim, so it was more than a touch ironic that a game which started in beautiful Italian sunshine should fall victim to the weather. But a biblical thunder and lightning storm just before the interval resulted in the game being called off as the conditions deteriorated rapidly in Parma.
Connacht coach Pat Lam said he appreciated the call made by the referee as the heavens opened and the pitch flooded. "It was the correct decision, safety is the first priority. Nobody expected the lightning and the rain and the hail and then once it went past 20 minutes, it is out of the control of both teams. But safety has to be the first call, we all know that. So, it's a matter of refixing the game and going from there. Sometimes there are things out of your control," said Lam.
Welsh referee Ian Davies kept the teams in the changing rooms for over half an hour before calling off the match as the pitch continued to flood.
They needed to go 60 minutes for the result to stand and a date for a refixture will be decided by Pro12 officials in due course. An added complication is that the sides are in the same pool in the Champions Cup and will meet back in Parma next month in round two of the competition.
These teams had only managed three tries between them in their opening games, but they had four on the board by half-time, three of them falling to Zebre against the champions. Tommaso Boni, capped on the summer tour to Argentina, got over after just seven minutes following a sustained bout of pressure.
Connacht needed a foothold and they got it seven minutes later when Tiernan O'Halloran sauntered over after good work by out-half Jack Carty and winger Niyi Adeolokun. Carty converted and that should have been the catalyst for Connacht to take control. But flanker Maxime Mbanda got Zebre's second try, again prospering from the strong work of left winger Giovanbattista Venditti, one of 14 Italian internationals in the starting 15 for the home side.
Carty pulled back a penalty for Connacht but it was no surprise when Zebre extended their lead with Jacopo Sarto finishing a fine move. Carlo Canna converted to make it 19-10 after 29 minutes. And the Italians had the final say of the opening half when full-back Edoardo Padovani landed a penalty from just inside halfway to make it 22-10 at the interval, but that was as far as this contest got.
Sunday Indo Sport