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Dublin: 13 °C Friday 1 August, 2014

As it happened: Connacht v Zebre, Heineken Cup

We went minute-by-minute as the western province sought to earn their third European win this season.

Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER chance to watch Connacht’s promising all-Irish back-line in action.

And with Zebre the opposition today, we hope to see them really get a chance to open up.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the match. E-mail Sean@thescore.ie, tweet @thescore_iepost a message to our Facebook wall, or leave a comment below.

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Connacht 20 –  3 Zebre

15.24 – Good afternoon, rugby fans. You’ve joined us just in time for our first liveblog of the day. We’ll be keeping a close eye on Connacht as they try to bring up a second win from two for Irish provinces.

There have been two brilliant games already today. Harlequins slipped to a 13 – 16 loss at home to Clermont and Leicester kept the heat up on Ulster with a 19 – 34 win away to Treviso.

15.29 – Little over 10 minutes to go before kick-off at the Sportsground, but still ample time to get your predictions in the comment section, check out our preview or 3 key battles below or just pore over the team-sheets.

Connacht: D Leader, F Carr, R Henshaw, E Griffin, M Healy; J Carty, K Marmion: B Wilkinson, S Henry, N White, M Kearney, A Browne; J Muldoon (capt) J Heenan, E McKeon.

Replacements: J Harris-Wright, D Buckley, R Ah You, M Swift, G Naoupu, P O’Donohoe, D Parks, G Duffy.

Zebre: G Palazzani, G Toniolatti , K Ratuvou, G Garcia, D Berryman, L Orquera, A Chillon: M Aguero, D Giazzon, D Chistolini, Q Geldenhuys (capt), G Biagi, F Ferrarini, D van Schalkwyk, S Vunisa,

Replacements: T D’Apice , A de Marchi, D Ryan, M Bortolami, N Cattina, R Quartaroli, R Trevisan, D Odiete.

15.38 – It’s a big day for Jack Carty at number 10 for Connacht, the Buccaneers man was hugely impressive on his full debut against Leinster last week, but today nothing short of a win will do.

15.43 – The teams run out to that mandatory Ceili Rock number from the Departed. But never mind all that…

KICK-OFF: Carty starts off with a kick deep into Zebre territory.

They clear and Leader shows great poise to take the early high ball.

Connacht move the ball quickly left and and Griffin breaks the line and forces a penalty.

15.44 – Carty got a hold of that early penalty, too much so and it’s hooked wide.

15.49 – The hosts enjoying all the possession, but Griffin tries to force it just to far and Ratuvou pops up to intercept.

The centre is covered and the scramble defence ensured the try-line was not threatened. The move ends with a Zebre knock on and Marmion will put in to the scrum in front of Connacht’s posts.

15.50 – Solid scrum and the hosts make good use of Darragh Leader’s right boot. The fullback kicks play up to near the 10-metre mark.

15.50 – From the line-out Mick Kearney is pinged for side entry on the maul. Chance for the visitors to open the scoring now…

15.52 – Orquera thuds the ball to the near side of the posts and it’s one miss apiece for the number 10s out there.

15.53 – Carr’s kick across field is aimless enough, allowing Palazzini run right back, but the former Leinster wing collects the kick and the tackle well to continue the stalemate.

15.57 – Ah, it’s scrappy on so many levels. Henry’s line-out is disrupted by Geldenhuys with Zebre knocking on before winning the green scrum against the head.

Eoin Griffin penalised now as Zebre raid on the left.A similar chance to the last one, but slightly closer in for Orquera this time.

15.58PENALTY: Connacht 0 – 3 Zebre (Orquera ’16)

16.01Replacement: Michael Swift is called from the bench early as Mick Kearney suffers a shoulder injury.

16.04 – Ah, brilliant stuff from Jake Heenan, arching over the tackler to get hands on the ball and stands his ground with two yellow shirts thrown at him.

Big turnover to take Connacht out of their own red zone.

16.06 – Far too much aimless kicking from Connacht throughout this first half, but when they run at the line they show what they can do.

Fionn Carr exploits the midfield gap and advances 20 metres upfield before passing the baton to Marmion who is cut down.

Next phase brings a penalty, much better stuff from the home side.

16.07PENALTY: Connacht 3 – 3 Zebre (Carty ’25)

16.09 – Carty again tries to unleash Carr on an angled run in midfield, but Zebre drift effectively and the wing’s pass goes to ground.

16.1028 mins: SIN BIN: Ferrarini

16.18 – CLOSE: Marmion’s first break of the day sets Connacht up within 10 metres. They attack right, across the posts, with Carr again assuming play-making responsibility and passing to Michael Swift who should have scored from five metres, but was smashed by Berryman.

16.13PENALTY: Connacht 6 – 3 Zebre (Carty’ 30)

Cary converts a straightforward penalty after starting the best move of the match as Carr and Muldoon get hands on the ball before Henshaw chipped ahead from the right touchline.

The ball bounced Connacht’s way, but not enough to yield a try. Nathan White brought out the BIG hand-off and was just dragged down before the try-line by Ferrarini who then held onto the prop to slow the play down.

16.21 – TMO Checking a double movement from Healy, but he was never truly held in the tackle and he was able to scramble the extra metre to the try-line.

TRY! Connacht 13 – 3 Zebre (Healy ‘ 35)

16.19TMO: Matt Healy is over the line, but (as usual) we have to triple check with the man in the darkened room.

16.42 – Here comes the second half, Orquera gets us under way.

16.23 – Superb Carty conversion to this try.

16.27HALF TIME: Connacht 13 – 3 Zebre

16.32 – Connacht finish the half on the up after struggling to find a rhythm in the first quarter. Good to see Fionn Carr tasked with easing the burden on Jack Carty by popping up with his hands on the ball time and again in midfield.

16.45 – Ooh, shocking error to start off with from Zebre as Palazzani kicks out after the ball was carried into his 22.

Connacht’s maul begins to build up speed, but it’s dragged down and Carty has a free shot at Carr, before they come back for the penalty.

Carty kicks for touch, they trust the maul to do some damage here.

16.46TRY! Connacht 20 – 3 Zebre (Henshaw ‘ 44)

Carty adds the conversion, but the Connacht faithful will leave wondering ‘who was the All Black who set up the try with an audacious off-load?’

Well, it was Michael Swift. Stunning skills from the big man to execute the back-handed off-load for Griffin to keep the move going with a between the legs pass before Henshaw finished it off.

16.52 – We’ll keep looking for a good angle to see that piece of Swift magic, but here’s how Henshaw finished it off.

17.23 – Well, Matt Healy is certainly concentrating.

The winger steals in and takes an intercept. The chasing defenders just about manage to track him and hold him up however. Referee decides no need for the TMO – maybe just a blade of white grass touching the ball if any at all.

17.0055 mins: Not a huge deal to report since Henshaw’s score, but with the bench beginning to empty Connacht are back on the attack in the final third. Marmion snipes, but the man in support can only reach the off-load with his fingertips and knocks on.

17.03 – Jason Harris-Wright pinged for holding on and unleashes a gigantic F bomb as he trots back to the defensive line. The referee calls him back to Davina McCall-style remind him that he is live on air.

17.05 – A decent set of phases come to an end for Zebre as Chillon knocks on. A scrum-half should be doing better in that situation.

Connacht still at the wrong end of the field if they have their hopes set on two more tries.

17.09 – Finally Connacht come away, Healy passing wide to Henshaw who kicks clear and chases Zebre down into their 22.

Orquera manages to clear, but the hosts have a line-out 30 metres out.

17.13 – Another fine move from Connacht and Carr gives Healy a chance to dive to the corner.

We’re with the TMO… and unfortunately the winger looks to have lost control before hitting the line.

17.17 – Connacht win back the chance to feed the scrum v and they force Zebre into conceding the penalty.

We’ll stick with the eight-man set-piece with the clock ticking down to 70 mins.

17.20 – Zebre escape unscathed after that series and Connacht are lucky not to be back in their own 22 after looking very disorganised in defence.

Instead, Zebre kick the ball away and Leader is able to rifle the ball back deep into Zebre territory.

17.21 – It started scrappy and it looks how that’s going to end. Griffin drops the ball in midfield. Concentration just not where it might be from the home side.

17.28 – Zebre continue to attack now with the clock gone red. The green defensive line is holding firm and keeping the visitors at arm’s length.

FULL TIME: Connacht 20 – 3 Zebre

17.2477 mins: Connacht visibly upping the tempo now in the final minutes with Henshaw attempting to change the point of attack and Dan Parks looking for an opening with his boot.

It all seems a little too late however.

17.33 – So, a win and aperformance which certainly had its positives, but little more than that to crow about for the western province.

Here’s how pool 3 looks after that.

Safe home.

Lam trusts young guns to keep European hopes alive

Connacht v Zebre: 3 key battles to decide the victor at the Sportsground

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