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RaboDirect PRO12: Connacht see off Zebre on opening weekend
- Glasgow off to winning start
- Leinster start in fine style
- Dragons hot on opening night
- Ospreys get early lift
- Fast start for Munster
Connacht got the new season off to a promising start as they beat Zebre 25-16 at the Sportsground in the opening round of the RaboDirect PRO12 campaign.
Tries from Nathan White, Matt Healy and Fionn Carr, coupled with 10 points from the boot of Dan Parks, ensured new coach Pat Lam got off to a winning start.
Prop White, who turned 32 on Wednesday, accepted a belated birthday present in the form of an intercept try as he sent Connacht ahead in the fourth minute.
Luciano Orquera replied with a penalty but Connacht pushed 12-3 in front when Healy scored a classy converted try on the half hour.
Parks added three more points to Connacht's tally before half-time, as their scrum continued to impress.
Zebre improved on the restart with Luciano Orquera kicking two penalties to one from Parks, before Connacht got their counter-attacking game going and Carr flew in for their third try.
The visitors added a deserved consolation score from Luca Redolfini in the final minute, despite losing fellow replacement Matteo Pratichetti to the sin-bin.Full-back Dion Berryman, one of five debutants in the Italians' starting line-up, tested out Robbie Henshaw's defence before Connacht seized an early lead.
White was alert to a quickly-taken Zebre line-out, intercepting the throw to canter in from 25 metres out. Parks' conversion attempt went wide.
Orquera closed the gap to 5-3 after Connacht were pinged for not rolling away and amid a scrappy error-strewn start, Parks missed two penalties set up by Connacht's forceful maul and scrum.
The game lulled along until Parks spread play intelligently with a skip pass in the 29th minute, Carr came in off his wing and linked superbly with fellow winger Healy who shimmied and then beat his man on the outside.
Parks' kicking radar was bang on target from the touchline conversion, the seven points lifting Connacht's confidence and their forwards took their cue.
The westerners turned over a Zebre scrum with George Naoupu doing well to control possession at the base, and that good work led to a first successful penalty from Parks and a 15-3 interval lead.
Zebre had done very little wrong in defence, working hard and maintaining their shape and discipline for the most part.
An instinctive break from 13-times capped All Black Leonard also gave a glimpse of their attacking potential.
The Italian outfit opened the scoring in the second half, winning a scrum penalty which Orquera stuck over with six minutes gone.
The territory swung in improving Zebre's favour during the third quarter, the tension increasing for the home support in the 4,083 crowd as Orquera cut Connacht's lead to six points.
Parks snapped back three points as Lam looked to his bench, with young Kiwi Jake Heenan making his mark with a couple of useful turnovers.
Man-of-the-match Henshaw and pacey replacements Tiernan O'Halloran and Paul O'Donohoe also lifted the province late on, the latter releasing Carr for his 75th minute try just to the right of the posts.
Parks and Gonzalo Garcia had missed penalty attempts before that and Pratichetti's sin-binning for foul play left Zebre with 14 men for the closing seven minutes.
Park's conversion took Connacht 25-9 clear before reserve prop Redolfini rumbled over for a try his team's second half efforts merited.Grand Final 2013/14. Click here to bet.
Guinness PRO12 Table
|Sunday 21st December|
|16:00||Dragons vs Zebre|
|Friday 26th December|
|14:05||Cardiff Blues vs Dragons|
|17:00||Munster vs Leinster|
|18:45||Ulster vs Connacht|
|Saturday 27th December|
|14:40||Glasgow vs Edinburgh|
|17:15||Ospreys vs Scarlets|
|Sunday 28th December|
|14:00||Zebre vs Treviso|
|Thursday 1st January|
|14:05||Newport Gwent D'gons vs Cardiff Blues|
|17:00||Connacht vs Munster|
|Friday 2nd January|
|19:35||Edinburgh vs Glasgow Warriors|
|Saturday 3rd January|
|14:00||Treviso vs Zebre|
|14:40||Leinster vs Ulster|
|17:05||Scarlets vs Ospreys|
|Friday 9th January|
|19:35||Connacht vs Edinburgh|
|19:35||Glasgow vs Scarlets|
|Saturday 10th January|
|14:40||Cardiff Blues vs Leinster|
|15:00||Zebre vs Munster|
|Sunday 11th January|
|14:00||Treviso vs Ulster|
|16:00||Ospreys vs Newport Gwent D'gons|
|Wednesday 14th January|
|TBC||Leinster vs Newport Gwent D'gons|
|TBC||Scarlets vs Connacht|
|TBC||Edinburgh vs Ospreys|
|TBC||Ulster vs Benetton Treviso|
|TBC||Zebre vs Glasgow|
|TBC||Munster vs Cardiff Blues|
|Saturday 20th December|
|Ospreys 31 - 20 Ulster|
|Glasgow Warriors 21 - 18 Munster|
|Friday 19th December|
|Cardiff Blues 21 - 9 Scarlets|
|Edinburgh 48 - 0 Treviso|
|Leinster 21 - 11 Connacht|
|Sunday 30th November|
|Glasgow Warriors 19 - 15 Dragons|
|Saturday 29th November|
|Connacht 14 - 8 Scarlets|
|Leinster 18 - 12 Ospreys|
|Zebre 18 - 10 Edinburgh|
|Friday 28th November|
|Cardiff Blues 36 - 25 Treviso|
|Munster 21 - 20 Ulster|
|Sunday 23rd November|
|Edinburgh 28 - 13 Cardiff Blues|
|Treviso 24 - 24 Leinster|
|Friday 21st November|
|Ulster 25 - 16 Ospreys|
|Connacht 43 - 3 Zebre|
|Scarlets 19 - 9 Glasgow Warriors|
|Dragons 12 - 38 Munster|
|Saturday 1st November|
|Ulster 23 - 6 Newport Gwent D'gons|
|Scarlets 28 - 13 Zebre|
|Cardiff Blues 24 - 28 Munster|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com