Pro14: Five-try Connacht power to a 32-13 defeat of Zebre in Galway
|Pro14: Connacht 32-13 Zebre|
|Connacht (17) 32|
|Tries: Boyle 2, Blade, Griffin, Adeolokun Cons: Carty 2 Pen: Carty|
|Zebre (3) 13|
|Try: Bisegni Con: Brummer Pens: Canna 2|
Connacht registered their first win under new head coach Andy Friend with a 32-13 demolition of Zebre in Galway.
Paul Boyle's first senior tries put the Irish side in charge before Caolin Blade, Eoin Griffin and Niyi Adeolokun also scored to seal a bonus-point win.
A pair of Carlo Canna penalties and a late try by Giulio Bisegni were all that Zebre could muster in response.
The Italian side failed to adapt their game to the wet and windy conditions at the Sportsground.
The victory will bolster Connacht's confidence before their first away trip of the season to Edinburgh while Zebre must pick up the pieces when Cardiff Blues visit Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi in round three.
Connacht profit from dominant scrum
Following their narrow defeat by Glasgow on the opening weekend, Connacht were determined to secure their first win of the season and set a blistering tempo that Zebre struggled to match.
The Italian side were forced into an early mistake when Canna dropped the ball over his own line and Jack Carty was presented with an easy opening penalty to put the hosts on the scoreboard first.
Connacht added their first try in the eighth minute when scrum-half Blade got a boot to a Zebre knock on and dashed forward to win the loose ball before his pack recycled quickly and Boyle showed impressive strength to swat aside a couple of attempted tackles before stretching to ground the ball on the line.
The Connacht front row were also beginning to exert their dominance as Zebre were consistently penalised in the scrum, which allowed Carty to kick his side to within five metres of the opposition line with 20 minutes on the clock.
From the resulting lineout, Boyle struck for his second try as the initial rolling maul was held up but the young academy flanker was able to barge his way over.
Zebre, who were seeking a record fifth consecutive Pro14 victory, eventually began to find their feet and it took a last-ditch tackle by Tiernan O'Halloran to stop a rampaging run from Matu Tevi but the Connacht defence strayed offside shortly afterwards to give Canna an opportunity to open his account.
Tevi had another sight of the tryline in the closing stages of the first half but the powerful Tongan blindside lost the ball over the line.
Depleted Zebre pay the price
Zebre's ill discipline cost them dearly at the start of the second half as front-row duo Giosue Zilocchi (collapsing a scrum) and Oliviero Fabiani (late tackle) were both sent to the sin-bin within minutes of each other.
The Connacht pack cranked into action against their depleted opponents and were immediately rewarded as the ball squirted out of a dominant five-metre scrum and Blade was able to dart over.
Canna doubled Zebre's tally shortly afterwards but Connacht now had a bonus-point score in their sights and crossed for their fourth try just before the hour mark after Carty's clever grubber kick was gathered by a sliding Eoin Griffin for a spectacular score.
Replacement hooker Shane Delahunt had a try disallowed for obstruction but Connacht refused to take their foot off the pedal and fellow substitute Adeolokun added a deserved fifth try when he wriggled his way over in the right corner.
Zebre clinched a consolation score in the dying minutes when centre Bisegni raced onto a grubber kick to dot down for the game's final try.
Connacht: T O'Halloran; C Kelleher, E Griffin, K Godwin, M Healy; J Carty, C Blade; D Buckley, D Heffernan, F Bealham; G Thornbury, Q Roux; S O'Brien, J Butler, P Boyle.
Replacements: S Delahunt, C O'Donnell, D Robertson-McCoy, J Cannon, C Fainga'a, K Marmion, C Ronaldson, N Adeolokun.
Zebre: E Padovani; M Bellini, G Bisegni, N De Battiasta, G Venditti; C Canna, M Violi; A Lovotti, O Fabiani, G Zilocchi; D Sisi, G Biagai (capt); M Tevi, J Meyer, R Giammarioli.
Replacements: M Ceciliani, D Rimpelli, R Tenga, A Tauyavuca, J Tuivaiti, G Palazzani, F Brummer, T Boni.
Referee: Lloyd Linton (SRU)
Assistant referees: Finlay Brown (SRU), John Carvill (IRFU)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (IRFU)