Zebre see off Connacht
PRO14 REPORT: Zebre secured just their third win of the Pro14 season as tries from Johan Meyer and Giovanbattista Venditti saw off Connacht 24-10.
Zebre were physical in defence and controlled territory throughout in a tense and tight encounter.
And when the pressure was on they produced as Meyer scored following a kick over the top and Venditti muscled his way through to clinch it.
The result moves Zebre to within two points of Connacht in a tight Conference A.
With just three wins from nine games and a point off Cardiff Blues in fourth, this was a crucial game for Connacht.
The 2016 champions started positively, controlling much of the possession in the first ten minutes but they struggled to make much ground against Zebre's fierce defence.
And the Italians got on the board first as Carlo Canna slotted over a penalty from close range after Connacht were caught offside at the breakdown.
Zebre's defence was beginning to cause nerves in Connacht's attack with Tiernan O'Halloran uncharacteristically kicking out on the full while under pressure.
Tries were still unforthcoming through, with Zebre wing Venditti failing to find centre Giulio Bisegni in space after a neat Canna kick to the left flank.
Venditti was in the thick of the action just before the break as he sprinted clear and reached out for the corner following a floated pass out wide.
But O’Halloran just about held the ball up and Zebre were left with just a Canna penalty.
Connacht were a team on a mission after the break and took the lead within five minutes of the re-start as Tom Farrell burst through to score with Steve Crosbie converting.
Zebre piled forward with Canna at the heart of everything they did in possession, and it was his break which almost set up a try.
Connacht’s scramble defence just about prevented it but Canna put them back ahead with his third penalty.
Jack Carty regained the lead for Connacht, with the Irish side injecting more urgency into their play but they were stung as Meyer latched onto the end of a kick over the top to dot down.
Canna extended that to nine points with a penalty before Venditti powered through to cap off a superb afternoon.
Tries: Meyer, Venditti
Pens: Canna 3
Zebre: 15 Matteo Minozzi, 14 Mattia Bellini, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Giovanbattista Venditti, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Renato Giammarioli, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Maxime Mbandà, 5 George Biagi (captain), 4 Leonard Krumov, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Luhandre Luus, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 David Sisi, 20 Jacopo Sarto, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Serafin Bordoli, 23 Ciaran Gaffney.
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Cian Kelleher, 13 Pita Ahki, 12 Tom Farrell, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Steve Crosbie, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 John Muldoon (captain), 7 James Connolly, 6 Eoghan Masterson, 5 James Cannon, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Shane Delahunt, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Peter McCabe, 18 Conor Carey, 19 Cillian Gallagher, 20 Naulia Dawai, 21 James Mitchell, 22 Jack Carty, 23 Eoin Griffin.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy)
TMO: Leo Colgan (Ireland)