Bench comes to the rescue as Connacht finish strongly

Connacht flanker Nulia Dawai on his way to scoring a first-half try in dreadful conditions against Zebre at the Sportsground on Friday night. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.
Connacht flanker Nulia Dawai on his way to scoring a first-half try in dreadful conditions against Zebre at the Sportsground on Friday night. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Connacht 33

Zebre 3

IN normal run of the mill conditions, this game would have been a lot less dramatic and a lot more one-sided. Instead Connacht’s five try to zero pelting of Zebre at the Sportsground on Saturday night was noteworthy for a number of reasons as the men in green overcame some of the worst conditions this venue has seen in decades to get their fourth win on the bounce.

The bonus point was only secured in the final 20 minutes and it needed an injection of power and energy from a bench, packed full of some of the squad’s most experienced and valuable assets, to dig the side out of a tricky corner with the scoreline at 12-3 and Zebre growing in belief and confidence.

Two days of incessant rain had left the College Road pitch on the verge of unplayable with Marius Mitrea’s pre match inspection garnering plenty of attention. Surface water was visible yet the Italian referee decided that the game could start. The pressure to get a game like this played is high when you factor in travel costs for a team under financial pressure like the Parma based Zebre outfit.

This season more than ever, the Italian franchises have failed to spark, just three wins between them in 32 games played. It’s a never ending problem that just won’t go away. While the Pro12 talks of expansion, two key stakeholders within the current set up hover on the verge of extinction and, still, the competition gives the best of the two a spot in the Champions Cup each year where the hammerings only increase.

Connacht started well on Saturday in front of 4,000 odd brave souls who hid in underneath the covered stands while the rain cascaded down the sides of the structures. Niyi Adeolokun had the game’s opening try after an attack from a scrum underneath the posts where Eoghan Masterson jumped from the base and Steve Crosbie skip passed out to the right for the winger to power over.

Former Munster man Crosbie was making his debut for the province he joined on a short term contract in January and delivered a solid display in the conditions. Masterson was marking a return from a 12 month absences with a knee injury and produced a powerful 60 minute effort before receiving a huge ovation from the supporters who are delighted to have the fiery Laois operator back in the fold.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.