Friday 27 April 2018

Woeful Connacht again put to the sword by Bradley's Zebre

Connacht 11 Zebre 19

Connacht captain John Muldoon. Photo: Sportsfile
Connacht captain John Muldoon. Photo: Sportsfile

John Fallon

Connacht's hopes of winning a record eighth home match in succession came unstuck against a Zebre side who finished the closing stages with 13 men.

But, similar to the match in Parma before Christmas, Connacht even failed to get a losing bonus point against a Zebre side who had never done the double over an Irish province.

Connacht's Finlay Bealham is tackled by Zebre's Johan Meyer, left, and Guglielmo Palazzani. Photo: Sportsfile
Connacht's Finlay Bealham is tackled by Zebre's Johan Meyer, left, and Guglielmo Palazzani. Photo: Sportsfile

Former Connacht coach Michael Bradley would be the first to appreciate how much a record eighth home win in-a-row would mean to the home supporters but his men were worth their win.

It was Connacht's worst performance of the Kieran Keane era and a disappointing way to end a winning home run that went back to September.

Bradley spent seven seasons at the Sportsground and is trying to lay similar foundations in Parma, while also back in Galway were Connacht academy products Ciaran Gaffney and Rory Parata.

But it was an unhappy experience for Gaffney whose night lasted less than seven minutes when he picked up an injury which forced him to be carried off.

Connacht's Eoin Griffin is tackled by Zebre's Gabriele Di Giulio. Photo: Sportsfile
Connacht's Eoin Griffin is tackled by Zebre's Gabriele Di Giulio. Photo: Sportsfile

Connacht trailed 7-6 at the break with penalties from Craig Ronaldson either side of a try from impressive No 8 Renato Giammarioli.

Zebre enjoyed the better start to the second half with Gabriele Di Giulio getting over to score.

Keane drafted in Irish internationals Kieran Marmion and Quinn Roux along with team captain John Muldoon in an effort to rescue the game but their night got worse when Zebre skipper George Biagi charged down a clearance from Marmion before setting up Andrea De Marchi for Zebre's third try.

Canna converted to make it 19-6 with 15 minutes remaining but the Italians were reduced to 14 men for the final eight minutes when flanker Maxime Mbanda was sin-binned with the penalty count at 17-6 in Connacht's favour. 

Connacht's Craig Ronaldson kicks a conversion. Photo: Sportsfile
Connacht's Craig Ronaldson kicks a conversion. Photo: Sportsfile

Darragh Leader crossed for a late try but even when Parata was also sin-binned they couldn't rescue a bonus point.

Connacht - D Leader; C Kelleher, E Griffin, T Farrell (P Akhi 60), M Healy; C Ronaldson, C Blade (K Marmion 51); D Coulson (P McCabe 65), T McCartney (D Heffernan 65), F Bealham (C Carey 66, Bealham 75); G Thornbury (Q Roux 51), J Cannon; E Masterson (J Muldoon 52), N Dawai (J Muldoon '7-14), S OBrien.

Zebre - C Gaffney (S Bordoli '7); G Di Giulio, G Bisegni, F Afamasaga, R Parata; C Canna, G Palazzani; C Ah-Nau (A De Marchi 61), O Fabiani (T DApice 69), D Chistolini (D Tenga 51); J Tucker (D Sisi 51), G Biagi; J Meyer, M Mbandà, R Giammarioli (D Minnie, 75).

Ref - M Adamson (Scotland).

Connacht coach Kieran Keane talks to Connacht's John Muldoon. Photo: Sportsfile
Connacht coach Kieran Keane talks to Connacht's John Muldoon. Photo: Sportsfile

Irish Independent

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