CAN CONNACHT DO the Italian J…. no. We can’t bring ourselves to trot out the tired old movie puns.
Not until the Six Nations starts anyway.
Join us as Eric Elwood bids farewell to European competition with Connacht.
As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the games.
Connacht 25 – 20 Zebre
20.00 – So, here comes Mauro Bergamasco leading his team in front of the Shed.
Nathan White following close. So here’s the rest of the supporting cast.
Connacht: R Henshaw; T O’Halloran, E Griffin, D McSharry, F Vainikolo; D Parks, K Marmion; B Wilkinson, J Harris-Wright, N White (c); M Swift, M McCarthy; M Kearney, J O’Connor, A Browne.
Replacements: E Reynecke, JP Cooney, R Loughney, D Gannon, E Grace, P O’Donohoe, M Nikora, D Poolman.
Zebre: T Tebaldi; G Venditti, R Quartaroli, M Pratichetti, R Trevisan; D Halangahu, A Chillon; S Perugini, D Giazzon, L Redolfini; M van Vuuren, J Sole; E Caffini, M Bergamasco (c), F Ferrarini.
Replacements: C Festuccia, M Aguero, D Ryan, N Belardo, A Manici, L Martinelli, A Chiesa, S Pace.
20.04 – KICK OFF We’re under way and Connacht go through the first set of phases.
The home side are in their grey kit, in front a a relatively subdued crowd the set ends with a decent territory kick from Vainikolo pinning Zebre in their 22.
20.06 – Zebre kick their way out and a little bit of tennis ensues before Robbie Henshaw makes a massive line-break with a superb angle in midfield. That’s why the kid is with the Wolfhounds.
Unfortunately, after making it to the 22 the Italians turn it over and survive again.
20.13 – Superb scrummaging from Nathan White. Connacht disrupt the first Zebre set-piece on their own feed send the Italians back-peddling to concede a penalty.
After Parks drills the ball up-field. McSharry carries the ball into contact off a line-out move and Giazzon is whistled for going in from the side.
PENALTY: Connacht 3 – 0 Zebre (Parks ’10)
From 40 metres and central, the old Scot sends the ball sailing between the posts.
20.23 – Connacht starting to really strengthen a grip on this game, but as Parks attempts a long kick to the corner, he just misjudges the angle and we have to come all the way back to for a Connacht scrum on half way.
The front row flexes a collective muscle again, with Brett Wilkinson drawing a penalty from Redolfini. Connacht move into the 22, but a BIG hit from the young number eight Ferrarini drives Harris-Wright back and forces another grey shirt to go in from the side.
20.37 – PENALTY: Connacht 12 – 6 Zebre (Parks ‘ 33)
Parks dinks a nice kick over the defensive line and Trevisan has to collect on his five-metre line whilst being wrapped up by O’Halloran and McSharry.
A penalty that close to the line, you would expect a final warning to be issued, but this ill discipline looks set to continue.
21.01 – The flags at the Sportsground indicate the Connacht will have the wind at their backs in the second half.
Zebre get us under way, they’ve launched a few replacements from the bench including former Munster prop Dave Ryan.
21.05 – The line-out is starting to function too and Connacht try to widen their attack. They have to come back for a penalty, however. They opt for a scrum, which results in another penalty, another scrum v.
21.16 – Tiernan O’Halloran for one is trying to inject some impetus back in Connacht’s moves. The winger looks to make a break in midfield, but is wrapped up.
Halangahu will have enjoyed the last cameo, a nice grubber to the corner. Dan Parks covering the left side could only fumble the ball backwards before having to kick the ball straight out.
The Italians smell an upset.
21.30 – Trevisan is getting a lot of possession. His latest brings a delayed penalty as the touch judge reckons Henshaw obstructed him. To us, it looked a little bought.
21.32 – Zebre bang the penalty into the corner and Michael Swift is penalised at the line-out. Connacht trail.
PENALTY Connacht 19 – 20 Zebre (Halangahu ’69)
21.38 – Now Connacht are on their game. Henshaw, makes another big break down the left. Is taken down by a high arm and he momentarily appeals before offloading.
The ball is briefly spun wide to Parks before the Scot wisely asks Mike McCarthy to take the ball in again.
A phase later, Paul O’Donohoe lays the ball back to the pocket.
DROP GOAL: Connacht 25 – 20 Zebre (Parks ’75)
21.42 – Connacht are hanging on again as Zebre rumble a maul to within a metre of the try-line.
Once it collapses, though. It’s fair game and Connacht almost instantly win the pill back for O’Donohoe to smash upfield.
21.55 – So there you have it.
12 games, two years, four wins, eight defeats and a whole lot of blood, sweat and more blood and more sweat spilled by Connacht in their Heineken Cup journey.
It didn’t end with a bang, but in a difficult season for Elwood, his side were able to kick into an extra gear at exactly the point they needed to.
Now, it’s a fortnight off for Connacht before getting back to the bread-and-butter of the Pro12. They’ll watch the latter stages of the Heineken Cup from afar, hoping an Irish side can win again and save them from the Amlin Challenge Cup.
Thanks, Eric. Thanks, Connacht. It’s been a wild ride.