Friend joy as Benetton hit for six
Connacht 41 Benetton 5
Connacht coach Andy Friend said his half-back combination of Caolin Blade and Conor Fitzgerald gave them the platform to get their season up and running with a bonus-point win.
His men bounced back from their 18-10 loss away to Scarlets to outscore Benetton by six tries to one in an impressive showing.
"We were disappointed with the Scarlets game, but we felt most of that was our game control, and I thought Caolin Blade and Conor Fitzgerald did that really well. You put the ball in front of the forwards and it becomes an easy game," he said. "We have talked about making the Sportsground a fortress but you have to go out and do it and we did for this one."
Blade crowned a fine display with two tries but Kieran Marmion, keen to get over his World Cup disappointment, came off the bench and scored in an impressive cameo. The score of the night came when centre Kyle Godwin spotted a gaping hole down the middle and sprinted from just outside his own 22 to score after ten minutes.
The only respite for the Italians came when Ian Keatley, back at the ground where he spent three seasons, sent full-back Luca Sperandio over for a side with 15 players away on World Cup duty.
Connacht - T O'Halloran (J Porch 65); S Fitzgerald, K Godwin, P Robb, M Healy; C Fitzgerald (T Farrell 55), C Blade (K Marmion 52); P McAllister (D Buckley 50), T McCartney (S Delahunt 52), F Bealham (D Roberston-McCoy 50); G Thornbury, Q Roux (U Dillane 47); E Masterson (S Masterson 65), J Butler, P Boyle.
Benetton Rugby - L Sperandio; L Sarto (I McKinley 52), J Riera (I Brex 50), A Sgarbi, M Ioane; I Keatley, L Petrozzi (C Trussardi 61); D Appiah (C Traore 41), T Baravalle (E Makelara 41), M Mancini Parri (F Alongi 61)); N Cannone, E Snyman (M Fuser 3); M Lazzaroni, G Pettinelli, T Halafihi (L Manni 52).
Ref - R Rasivhenge (South Africa)
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