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Connacht pile on the points

Connacht gave their bid to finish in the top half of the Guinness PRO12 a big lift with a 53-5 bonus-point win over Benetton Treviso.

The home side were full of early running against a stiff Sportsground wind, a fifth-minute effort from the returning Tiernan O'Halloran helping them on their way to a 13-5 half-time lead.

Treviso centre Sam Christie struck for a try before the break, but Pat Lam's men had the bonus point in the bag by the 54th minute thanks to successive scores from Jake Heenan, Matt Healy and Denis Buckley.

Man-of-the-match Craig Ronaldson was near faultless off the kicking tee, pocketing 18 points from nine attempts, with Aly Muldowney, Healy and Danie Poolman completing the seven-try rout. The result moved the Irish province six points clear of the seventh-placed Scarlets, as the battle for European Champions Cup qualification intensifies.

The Italian defence crumbled out wide in the opening minutes when Healy's lovely run and snappy pass out of a tackle sent O'Halloran stepping through to score on his first start of the season.

Ronaldson converted and then added a penalty on the quarter-hour mark after a spell of forward pressure. The visitors should have replied via good breakdown work from scrum-half Alberto Lucchese, but Jayden Hayward pushed the resulting penalty wide.

Connacht kept the Italians out as they pressed for a try from a close-in penalty and the hosts' solid scrum platform saw them build for a second successful penalty from excellent out-half Ronaldson.

However, Treviso hit back in the 34th minute when Niyi Adeolokun and John Cooney were unable to stop Christie from close range, with Hayward missing the conversion from the left.

A foot in touch denied winger Healy a quick try on the resumption, although the Connacht pack were in clinical form when a well-worked maul saw flanker Heenan crash over in the right corner.

Ronaldson maintained his 100 per cent kicking return at that stage, brilliantly drawing in the difficult conversion off the left post. Try number three swiftly followed as Healy deservedly got over near the left corner flag, profiting from Poolman's timely injection of pace in a back-line move.

The province's best maul of the night saw prop Buckley plunge over for the bonus-point score. And although they failed to prosper from hooker Tom McCartney's eye-catching run, a short Ian Porter pass soon had the hard-working Muldowney reaching over the line.

As the penalties stacked up, Treviso replacement prop Salesi Manu was sin-binned for a ruck infringement near his posts and Healy scored again, before Poolman outpaced the cover to get his side past the half-century points mark.

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