Connacht captain John Muldoon admitted the westerners paid the price for failing to give their hosts ‘the respect they deserved’ as the home outfit recorded their first win the competition.
Muldoon explained: “Aironi have shown a marked improvement this season. Unfortunately, individually and collectively, we made too many errors and you cannot afford to do that against any team in the league. We were still in the game until they scored their third try, and then they battened down the hatches and we were left chasing the game. Our discipline let us down, we did not give them the respect they deserved and they deserved their win.”
The first mistake paved the way for Aironi’s opening try, when winger Kaine Robertson intercepted before touching down, while midway through the half Connacht failed to deal with Danwel Demas’ grubber kick and South African Gareth Krause pounced for Aironi’s second.
Connacht kept pace in the opening spell with an Ian Keatley penalty, and the out half’s incisive break led to a Ray Ofisa try to leave four between them, 14-10. But Connacht, struggling to get a foothold, also spurned other try scoring chances before Aironi regained the initiative after the break with a Teto Tibaldi penalty and drop goal from outhalf James Marshall.
While Keatley converted one of two penalty attempts in a bid to narrow the gap, it proved Connacht’s last score. The home side finished with a third try from Demas, denying Connacht a seventh losing bonus point this season.
With Connacht and Edinburgh locked on 34 points, a home victory over the Scottish side at the Galway Sportsground on Friday has assumed greater importance after this defeat in Italy. Muldoon agreed: “We have much higher expectations of ourselves which has been warranted by our performances this season, but if we want to get our best Magners League finish, we now have to knuckle down and get ourselves right for Friday.”
AIRONI : G Rubini, K Robertson, M Pratichetti, G Pizarro, D Demas; J Marshall, T Tebaldi, Alberto de Marchi, R Santamaria, F Staibano, J Furno, M Bortolami, J Sole, G Krause, N Williams. Replacements: F Ongaro for Santamaria (56), R Redolfini for Stainbano (60m), N Cattina for Krause (72m), P Canavosio for Tebaldi (73m), H San Martin for Pizzaro and A De Marchi for De Marchi (77m).
CONNACHT: G Duffy, B Tuohy, N Ta’auso, T Nathan, F Carr; I Keatley, F Murphy, B Wilkinson, S Cronin, J Hagan, M Swift, M McCarthy, A Browne, J O’Connor, R Ofisa.
Replacements: R Ah You for Hagan and B Upton for Browne (60, K Matthews for Ta’auso (63), R Loughney for Wilkinson and J Muldoon for O’Connor (71), C Willis for Murphy (73).
Referee: N Hennesy (WRU).