European Rugby Champions Cup: Zebre 7-52 Connacht

Connacht's John Muldoon makes a break against Zebre in Sunday's Champions Cup game in Italy
Connacht's John Muldoon makes a break against Zebre in Sunday's Champions Cup game in Italy
European Champions Cup Pool 2
Zebre (0) 7
Try: T D'Apice Con: Padovani
Connacht (14) 52
Tries: Ili 3, Carty; penalty try, Kelleher 2, Carey Cons: Ronaldson 5; O'Leary

Connacht's improved form continued with an eight-try demolition of 14-man Zebre to top Pool 2 in the Champions Cup.

Stacey Ili scored a hat-trick on his first start for Connacht with his opener and another from Jack Carty giving them a 14-0 lead at half-time.

Zebre hooker Oliviero Fabiani was sent off for biting after half an hour.

Ili's second and a penalty try clinched a bonus point after 51 minutes with a Cian Kelleher brace, Conor Carey and Ili completing the rout.

Zebre, who conceded 12 tries in losing 82-14 to Wasps in their first game in the pool last week, scored once at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi through replacement prop Tommaso D'Apice in the 61st minute, with Edoardo Padovani converting.

The 20-20 draw between Toulouse and Wasps leaves Connacht two points clear at the top of Pool 2.

Connacht signed 25-year-old utility back Stacey Ili from Auckland in September
Connacht signed 25-year-old utility back Stacey Ili from Auckland in September

Rejuvenated Connacht

Pro12 champions Connacht lost their opening three league fixtures against Glasgow, Ospreys and Scarlets but this was their fourth win on the trot.

League wins over Edinburgh and Ulster were backed up by a superb 23-21 win over Toulouse in their opening Champions Cup fixture at the Sportsground last weekend.

Despite Tiernan O'Halloran and Bundee Aki not starting, Connacht's explosive backs enjoyed a comfortable afternoon with Kelleher taking his chance with two second-half tries.

One downside was a yellow card for 21-year-old flanker Sean O'Brien on his first European start in the 29th minute but overall it was a very satisfactory outing for Pat Lam's side.

Off the pace

Zebre did little to dispel the doubts over their continued participation in Europe's elite competition.

Wasps ran in 12 tries against the weak Italians last weekend and Connacht's result took Zebre's tally of tries conceded to a remarkable 20 in two matches.

Ill-discipline also hurt them badly with Fabiani receiving a red card for a bite on Quinn Roux's arm in the first half.

They also lost Tommaso Castello to the sin-bin in the second half and shipped three tries while temporarily down to 13 players.

Zebre: E Padovani; G Di Giulio, G Bisegni, T Castello, G Venditti; C Canna, M Violi; A Lovotti, O Fabiani, P Ceccarelli, Q Geldenhuys, G Biagi; Maxime Mbanda, J Meyer, D van Schalkwyk

Replacements: T D'Apice , B Postiglioni, G Roan, J Furno, F Ruzza, G Palazzani, T Boni, G D'Onofrio

Connacht: C Kelleher; N Adeolokun, P Robb, C Ronaldson, S Ili; J Carty, K Marmion; JP Cooney, S Delahunt, F Bealham; Q Roux, A Browne; S O'Brien, J Heenan, J Muldoon (Capt).

Replacements: D Heffernan, D Roberston-McCoy, C Carey, U Dillane, E McKeon, C Blade, S O'Leary, B Aki.

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