Paul Boyle bags brace as Connacht secure bonus-point victory over ill-disciplined Zebre
Connacht 32 Zebre 13
Presented with the prospect of five wins in a row in this competition, picking up from last season – and against opponents who had been victims in that campaign – Zebre did themselves in at the Sportsground with a performance that bypassed the discipline button altogether.
Struggling at the set-piece they conceded two men to the bin in the space of a minute early in the second half, and while the score was only 5-3 to the home side while Zebre were down to 13 it wrecked their heads.
Had they stayed at 15 they could have made a game of it despite the set-piece issues. Instead Connacht had the bonus point squared away on the hour mark.
By half time the home side were 17-3 in front thanks to an opening quarter in which they took full advantage every time Zebre slipped up. Had their lineout been functioning then they would have been even more comfortable.
Even so, the scrum was a reliable source of either go-forward ball or a penalty. So by the 21st minute they had 21 points on the board with number eight Paul Boyle, a man making his name in Connacht after his Leinster experience didn’t open any doors, scoring twice.
Jack Carty had the home side three points up after Caolin Blade was blocked trying to get through to challenge a clearing kick. The scrumhalf was also involved in the opening try when Zebre wing Mattia Bellini dropped the ball on his own 10 metre mark and quickly it turned into seven points.
Blade scooped the ball up brilliantly, Dave Heffernan tipped it on perfectly to Boyle and the number eight got over for Carty to convert. Just after the quarter mark he got over again after they built pressure off a maul close in and again Carty added the extras. Thereafter he had a woeful day off the tee.
By that point a greasy day was turning into a filthy one but Zebre managed the conditions well to get the better of the second quarter. Carlo Canna kicked a penalty and the excellent Matu Tevi got over the line only for the TMO to knock it back.
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The self-destruct stuff started just when Zebre looked like they were on the right track. First tight head Giossue Zilocchi went after Zebre’s sisth scrum penalty, then
Hooker Oliviero Fabiani followed for tackling Denis Buckley long after the ball had gone.
So Connacht went straight to the corner and soon enough were rewarded with a Blade try, but Canna pulled three points back a few minutes later to make it 22-6. Eoin Griffin got over on 60 minutes for the bonus point and replacement Niyi Adeolokun made it five in the final quarter.
Getting the last score of the game, through centre Giulio Bisegni, wasn’t exactly what Zebre had been looking for when they started the day. But that's all they got.
Connacht: T O’Halloran; C Kelleher (N Adeolokun 64), E Griffin, K Godwin (C Ronaldson 729s Delahunt 59)), M Healy; J Carty, C Blade (K Marmion 49); D Buckley (C O’Donnell 61), D Heffernan , F Bealham D Robertson-McCoy 59), G Thornbury (Q Roux 63), Q Roux (J Cannon 59), S O’Brien (C Fainga’a 49), J Butler (capt), P Boyle (78, not replaced)
Zebre: E Padovani; M Bellini, G Bisegni, N de Battista, G Vendetti; C Canna (B Francois 59), M Violi (G Pallazani 59); A Lovotti (D Rimpelli 7 HIA), O Fabiani (yc 46-56; M Ceciliani 56), G Zilocchi (yc 45-55), D Sisi, G Biagi (capt), M Tevi (J Tuivaiti ht), R Giammarioli, J Meyer
Referee: L Linton (Scotland)