Pro12: Connacht 33-3 Zebre
|Guinness Pro12: Connacht v Zebre|
|Connacht (12) 33|
|Tries: Adeolokun, Dawai, Muldoon, Penalty, Stevenson Cons: Cooney, O'Halloran, Carty, Ronaldson|
|Zebre (3) 3|
Champions Connacht continued their revival in the Pro12 as they earned a fourth straight win by beating bottom club Zebre in a rain-lashed Galway.
The conditions made the pitch quickly resemble a swamp but tries from busy Niyi Adeolokun and Naulia Dawai helped the home side lead 12-0 at half-time.
A Guglielmo Palazzani penalty was scant reward for Zebre pressure before John Muldoon scored Connacht's third try.
A further penalty try was followed by another Lewis Stevenson touchdown.
Ireland scrum-half Kieran Marmion made a crucial contribution after his half-time introduction as his last-ditch tackle prevented a seemingly certain try for Zebre replacement Bart Le Roux before his run out of defence lifted the siege, in advance of Muldoon's crucial third try.
Debutant fly-half Steve Crosbie provided the scoring pass for Adeolokun's opening try on seven minutes as the Ireland wing barged through Italian international Tommaso Boni to score.
After an Eoin McKeon effort was correctly ruled out for obstruction on Palazzani, Fijian flanker Dawai showed an impressive turn of foot to dive over in the corner but Connacht were by no means out of sight at 12-0 up at the break.
Helped by a wind advantage, Zebre dominated after the break with Palazzani cutting the margin to nine points before his dreadful penalty miss from in front of the posts.
Marmion's then became the game's central character as he charged upfield into the Zebre 22 shortly after his brilliant intervention to deny Le Roux a try.
After the resultant penalty, Zebre were caught napping as veteran Connacht skipper Muldoon slid over after taking a quick tap.
Referee Marius Mitrea signalled Connacht's bonus-point securing penalty try after adjudging that Zebre had infringed on a couple of occasions during a 66th-minute line-out maul and Stevenson then had time to add a fifth home touchdown.
The win moves Pat Lam's side above Cardiff Blues, into seventh spot in the table, to boost their hopes of securing a European Champions Cup spot for next season.
Connacht: T O'Halloran; N Adeolokun, B Aki, T Farrell, S Ili; S Crosbie, J Cooney; R Loughney, T McCartney (capt), D Robertson-McCoy; L Stevenson, A Browne; E McKeon, N Dawai, E Masterson.
Replacements: D Heffernan, D Buckley, F Bealham, Q Roux, J Muldoon, K Marmion, C Ronaldson, J Carty.
Zebre: D Berryman; M Bellini, T Boni, T Castello, L Greeff; S Bordoli, G Palazzani; B Postiglioni, O Fabiani, D Chistolini; Q Geldenhuys, V Bernabo (capt); M Cornelli, G Koegelenberg, F Ruzza.
Replacements: T D'Apice, A De Marchi, B Le Roux, J Furno, M Archetti, C Engelbrecht, M Pratichetti, G Roan.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR)