Muliaina makes immediate impact

Connacht's Mils Muliaina is tackled by Zebre's Andries Ferreira and Luca Redolfini. Picture: Inpho/James Crombie

GUINNESS PRO12:
Connacht 43 Zebre 3
Not the most auspicious occasion on a wet Galway evening for an All Black centurion to make his debut, but Mils Muliaina made his presence felt in Connacht’s 43-3 victory over Zebre last evening.

In an error strewn match, not helped by the incessant rain, Muliaina was able to demonstrate his class, particularly in the counter-attack, to be given a rousing ovation from the 5486 crowd — one of the biggest for this visiting Italian side which props up the bottom of the Guinness Pro 12 table.

Connacht were clearly the superior side and their scrum once again provided the platform for this success as Italian indiscipline resulted in three sin-binnings as Connacht grabbed their fourth try bonus point by the 65th minute.

Connacht were three points up at the third time of asking after 14 minutes — scrumhalf Ian Porter having missed two earlier penalties from just inside half way. Connacht were unlucky not have posted an opening try when centre Dave McSharry lost his footing in the wet conditions just a metre from the line after Muliaina had counterattacked from deep, finding left wing Matt Healy who made the initial break up the blind.

With a dominant scrum, Connacht should have been able to capitalise, but some poor kicking and a misfiring line-out allowed the Italians to launch their first attack, catching Connacht offside and opening their tally after 16 minutes through right wing David Odiete. However Zebre’s indiscipline at the breakdown and their repeated offending offside proved costly, with Porter extending the lead with a 19th minute penalty, and Fillipo Christiano yellow carded.

The scrum once again provided the platform for Connacht and in the ascendency the ball was spread wide with Muliaina supplying right wing Danie Poolman who dived over in the corner.

Although Porter missed the conversion, he posted two penalties in quick succession before the break, and within six minutes of the restart Mick Kearney had grabbed the second from a driving maul.

A new front row for Zebre seemed to give them a reprieve, but it was only temporary.

A succession of scrum penalties resulted in a penalty try and three minutes later No 8 George Naoupu was able to feed replacement scrumhalf John Cooney who had a clear run up the wing for the fourth try. A Zebre knock-on allowed replacement outhalf Jack Carty to kick ahead twice, pouncing for a fifth in the 68th minute.

Connacht scorers: Tries: Poolman, Kearney, Penalty, J. Cooney, Carty. Cons: Porter, Nikora, Carty. Pens: Porter 4.

CONNACHT: Muliaina, Poolman, Aki, McSharry, Healy, Nikora, Porter, Buckley, Harris-Wright, Loughney, Kearney, Roux, Muldoon, Faloon, Naoupu.

Replacements: D. Leader for Muliaina (68), Carty for Nikora (68), J. Cooney for Porter (52), McCartney for Harris-Wright (31), Bealham for Loughney (55), Browne for Kearney (57), E. McKeon for Faloon (55).

Zebre scorers: Pens: Odiete.

ZEBRE: Daniller, Odiete, Bisegni, Pratichetti, Visentin, Padovani, Leonard, De Marchi, Fabiani, Redolfini, Ferreira, Bernabo, M. Bergamasco, Cristiano, van Schalkwyk.

Replacements: Chillon for Leonard (70), Lovotti for De Marchi (49), Santamaria for Fabiani (47), Leibson for Redolfini (46), Steyn for M. Bergamasco (32), J. Sarto for van Schalkwyk (40).

Ref: Ben Whitehouse (Wales).


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