Connacht battle to win in snowy Sportsground

Connacht 11 Aironi 6

Connacht 11 Aironi 6

Connacht scrapped their way to a narrow win over the Magners League's bottom side Aironi amid snow showers at the Sportsground tonight.

This turned out to be a forgettable affair, pockmarked by individual errors and poor decision-making, but Ian Keatley's 11-point haul was enough to send Connacht up to seventh in the table.

In rain-soaked conditions, Keatley kicked a penalty and scored a late try for an 8-0 interval lead. The Connacht out-half added a second penalty but also missed four kicks over the course of the game, meaning Tito Tebaldi's penalty double saw Aironi snatched a deserved bonus point.

In the opening minutes the Italians kept Connacht out after two superb touch-finders from Keatley, who missed a subsequent 30-metre penalty.

A bout of aimless kicking was ended by a Ray Ofisa-inspired breakout which resulted in Connacht's forwards storming through and Keatley landing the first points.

The visitors were doing well to frustrate Connacht and Joshua Furno, Gareth Krause and Nick Williams were heavily involved up front.

Both try-lines remained untroubled during a listless spell, with James Marshall and Kaine Robertson covering Keatley's kicks and Aironi's maul well defended by Connacht.

A scrum infringement called against Aironi prop Ulises Gamboa allowed Keatley a third shot at the posts, but his 40-metre effort went narrowly wide.

Fionn Carr also had a try ruled out for a forward pass from Keatley and Connacht lacked penetration until first-half injury time.

A neat wraparound move involving Keatley and Troy Nathan sent the out-half hurtling towards the Aironi line and although Riccardo Bocchino made the tackle, Keatley's momentum took him over.

Television match official Jude Quinn confirmed the score and Keatley's missed conversion left eight points between the sides at half-time.

Connacht looked poised to add to their tally from a close-range scrum early in the second half, but Aironi snaffled turnover ball and cleared the danger.

Carr's pace was causing more problems for Aironi, and Keatley converted the second of two penalty attempts to make it 11-0.

Eric Elwood's men just could not cut loose though, and the arrival of snow hampered their attacks as Aironi kept plugging away, marshalled by a determined Marco Bortolami.

Replacement winger Giulio Toniolatti was held up just short of the Connacht whitewash, with Frank Murphy coming to his side's rescue.

Play was brought back for a penalty which Tebaldi knocked over. A powerful run from Williams got Aironi side back on the front foot and Tebaldi's 75th-minute penalty was the final scoring act.

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