Pro14: Zebre 24-10 Connacht
|Pro14: Zebre v Connacht|
|Zebre (6) 24|
|Try: Meyer, Venditti Con: Canna Pens: Canna 3 Drop Goal: Canna|
|Connacht (0) 10|
|Try: Farrell Con: Crosbie Pen: Carty|
Connacht suffered their seventh defeat of the Pro14 campaign as improving Zebre earned a deserved win in Parma.
After two Carlo Canna penalties left Zebre 6-0 ahead at the break, a controversial Tom Farrell try helped Connacht lead before Zebre regrouped.
Farrell touched down after team-mate James Cannon looked to have knocked on.
But Johan Meyer's 68th-minute try saw the energetic Zebre side regaining the lead and wing Giovanbattista Venditti's late touchdown sealed their victory.
Two missed straightforward penalties from fly-half Steve Crosbie didn't help Connacht's prospects in the first half as the 2015-16 champions failed to profit from two periods of territorial domination.
In truth, Connacht's ball-in-hand approach rarely looked likely to breach the Zebre defence with the home team looking more threatening and pacy when they attacked.
Misplaces passes from full-back Matteo Minozzi and Venditti saw Michael Bradley's side squandering great try chances before Tiernan O'Halloran held up Venditti in first-half injury time after the wing had crossed the line.
Farrell's contentious 44th-minute Connacht try came during the sin-binning of their flanker Eoghan Masterson who had been yellow carded by Irish referee George Clancy moments before half-time.
All players bar Farrell appeared to have stopped in the expectation that Cannon would be pinged for a knock-on on the edge of the Zebre 22 but Clancy awarded the score as the centre ran on after trying his luck.
Connacht wasted a chance to build on their good forture as hooker Shane Delahunt knocked on just short of the Zebre line after a Kieran Marmion burst.
Penalties at either end from replacement fly-half Jack Carty and Canna kept Connacht 10-9 ahead by the 67th minute but as Zebre finished by far the stronger, tries from Meyer and the imposing Venditti, and a Canna drop goal, sealed the merited home win.
New Zealand-born centre Pita Ahki showed some running ability in the first half after making his first start for Connacht but made little impression in the second period.
Zebre: M Minozzi, M Bellini, G Bisegni, T Boni, G Venditti, C Canna, M Violi, A Lovotti, O Fabiani, D Chistolini, L Krumov, G Biagi, M Mbandà, J Meyer, R Giammarioli
Replacements: L Luus, C Ah-Nau, E Bello, D Sisi, J Sarto, G Palazzani, S Bordoli, C Gaffney
Connacht: T O'Halloran; C Kelleher, P Ahki, T Farrell, M Healy; S Crosbie, K Marmion; D Buckley, S Delahunt, F Bealham; U Dillane, J Cannon, E Masterson, J Connolly, J Muldoon (capt).
Replacements: D Heffernan, P McCabe, C Carey, C Gallagher, N Dawai, J Mitchell, J Carty, E Griffin.