Win boosts Connacht's Champions Cup hope

Win boosts Connacht's Champions Cup hope

Zebre 10 Connacht 40

Connacht kept alive their hopes of European Champions Cup qualification with a 40-10 away win over bottom-of-the-table Zebre in the Guinness PRO12.

A 10th win of the season, which marks a season’s best for Pat Lam’s men, lifted them level with Scarlets in the all-important sixth place which would secure a place in Europe’s elite knockout competition for next season.

Scrum-half John Cooney scored two first-half tries to put the Westerners on their way to a 10th successive win over the Italian minnows.

Brendon Leonard pulled a try back for the home side on 26 minutes and Luciano Orquera closed the gap further with the conversion and a penalty.

However, winger Matt Healy also went over for Connacht in the first half, with Jack Carty kicking his third conversion to make it 21-10 at the break, and back rower Eoghan Masterson secured the bonus point with a fourth touchdown 14 minutes into the second half

Connacht then pulled away, adding further tries through Tiernan O’Halloran and Shane O’Leary in the final 10 minutes to overwhelm the Italian side, who were led by veteran flanker Mauro Bergamasco in his final home game.

Bergamasco, who recently turned 36, is bowing out after 18 years of club rugby at Petrarca Padova, Benetton Treviso, Stade Francais, Aironi and Zebre and will finally hang up his boots after this autumn’s World Cup.

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