Connacht claimed an impressive bonus-point victory as they powered to a 34-19 success over Benetto Treviso at the Stadio Monigo.
Tiernan O’Halloran scored the bonus-point try on the hour as Connacht went 34-5 up, and despite two late tries from the home side, it was a comfortable victory for the Guinness PRO12 champions.
They made a quick start and took the lead on 15 minutes with a Craig Ronaldson penalty and he followed it with a second soon after to stretch the lead to 6-0.
Just before the half-hour they made the breakthrough with Caolin Blade slicing through after O’Halloran had initially put them in good position with a good run.
Ronaldson converted and was on target again four minutes later when Finlay Bealham had gone over. The tighthead showed his athleticism to sprint over from 30 metres out after a good break from Niyi Adeolokun.
Trailing 20-0, Treviso needed a response and got one from winger Andrea Buondonno. He went over on the left-hand side, although the conversion was off-target.
The second half started with Connacht still on top Jack Carty playing a delightful grubber through for Ronaldson to dot down. He converted his own score to make it 27-5.
And then it was the turn of O’Halloran on the hour who sealed the five points as he went over following some brilliant offloading by the forwards. Carty had taken over the kicking duties by this point and added the extras, but it was the home side who finished the stronger.
They closed out with two converted tries, the first coming from full-back Luca Sperandio who showed all his pace to sprint away and over the line. Scrum-half Tito Tebaldi added the extras for Benetton.
And then with five minutes remaining Andrea Pratichetti went over for a third Treviso try, with first-half try-scorer Buondonno converting.
The home side had five minutes remaining to grab a try bonus point of their own, but they couldn’t manage it as Connacht held out.
The win helps Connacht keep pace with Cardiff Blues, just three points above them in the table in what could be a tantalising race for Champions Cup rugby next season.
Guinness PRO12 Final 2017, 27th May, Aviva Stadium, Dublin.
Ticket Information: Fans can still avail of an exclusive number of €30 tickets. Book via www.ticketmaster.ie. Further information: www.pro12rugby.com/fi