Lam unhappy with 'basic errors' despite winning start
Connacht 25 Zebre 16
It wouldn't have taken a lot of research by new coach Pat Lam to realise that Connacht have never handled the favourites tag well – not that they have been burdened with it that often – so relief was the over-riding emotion when they saw off Zebre.
The Italian side have only been in existence just over a year but this was their third visit to the Sportsgrounds. It would have been a disaster for Connacht had they become the first side ever to lose to Zebre, so Lam's relief afterwards was understandable, even if he was far from happy with the performance.
"The win was vital, but our execution at times let us down. The first 20 (minutes) of both halves is something we have to look at. You can put it down to first game, guys excited, home game and the conditions, but when you narrowed it down some of the errors were pretty basic," he said.
His predecessor Eric Elwood had been in touch on Friday to wish him luck but Lam knows he is on his own from here and for all the talk about performances, results will dictate everything.
"Everyone is pretty happy – first game off the most important was to get the win – but I know straight away from listening to them that they are not satisfied and that we can do better," he said.
Connacht led 17-3 having played with the wind in the opening half, despite Dan Parks missing three kicks. Lam's men got a perfect start when Nathan White intercepted a quick Zebre throw to saunter in.
Wing Matt Healy got the score of the match when he showed electric pace to go outside Zebre full-back Dion Berryman for his first Connacht try in his third start.
But Zebre hit back with the wind behind them in the second half and out-half Luciano Orquera gave them hope with a couple of penalties.
Connacht pulled clear with a Parks penalty, but they could not relax until five minutes from time when Fionn Carr scored his 35th Connacht try on his first game back since rejoining from Leinster.
Lam said that there was some disappointment that they did not push on and secure the bonus point, but he was happy with his first game in charge.
Zebre at home is as near to a banker as you will get in the Pro12 so he knows it will be a lot more searching when they travel to play a Cardiff Blues side on Friday, who were beaten 22-15 by Glasgow Warriors at the weekend.
Connacht – R Henshaw; F Carr, D Poolman (T O'Halloran 66), E Griffin, M Healy; D Parks (C Ronaldson 76), K Marmion (P O'Donohoe 65); B Wilkinson (R Ah You 71), J Harris-Wright (S Henry 56), N White (R Loughney 56); M Swift (A Muldowney 56), A Browne; J Muldoon, W Faloon, G Naoupu (J Heenan 58).
Zebre – D Berryman (M Pratichetti 54); G Venditti, K Ratuvou, G Garcia, G Toniolatti (T Iannone 49); L Orquera, B Leonard; M Aguero, D Giazzon (A Manici 50), D Christolini (L Redolfini 50); Q Geldenhuys, M Bortolami (G Biagi 65); M Bergamasco, E Caffini (F Ferrarini 40), S Vunisa.
REF – R Thomas (WRU).