It wasn’t the result Ian Keatley wanted but there was enough about Benetton's performance against Leinster at the RDS on Saturday night to suggest that the former Munster out-half is on to a good thing as he settles into his new life in Italy.
The Dubliner spent just over a decade playing for Leinster, Connacht and Munster before a three-month stint underneath Declan Kidney at London Irish provided a bridge for his current two-year contract with Kieran Crowley at Benetton.
And he was part of an impressive collective effort back in his home city in the opening round of the Heineken Champions Cup.
“European Cup nights in Ireland are something special, especially in Thomond Park and the RDS,” said Keatley.
“It was a great atmosphere there. The guys really enjoyed playing in front of that crowd. It was a pity about the result but it was great being back.”
Benetton showed their intent early when, having conceded the first of five tries on the night, they snubbed an easy three points and kicked to touch. The resultant lineout and maul led to the first of their three five-pointers with Dean Budd going over.
“You are coming up against one of the top teams in Europe. Kieran said we were coming with a positive attitude and that's why we went for the corner early on and that gave us confidence when we scored,” said the Irishman.
As Kieran said, our discipline killed us. If you give Leinster access to your 22 they are quite clinical, as they showed. That was the difference. We got into their 22 and we weren't clinical. That was the difference.
Crowley has done a superb job at Benetton who pushed Munster to the brink in last season’s PRO14 play-offs. His team is encouraged to think for itself and they play some excellent rugby on both sides of the ball.
Benetton could yet make an even bigger mark in Pool 1 which also contains a Lyon side sitting at the summit of the Top 14 and an improved Northampton Saints.
Drawing an Italian side in Europe is no longer the gimme it once was.
“We are taking great positives going into the Northampton game next week,” said Keatley. “You have to win your home games in this competition so we are going to focus on next week.”
Keatley is 32 now. He played over 250 times combined for three of Ireland’s four provinces and ten times for his country but his stint in Italy could yet be something of an Indian summer for him before the time comes to hang up the boots.
“It's great, yeah. Once you buy into the culture and the way of living it really is a great place.
“I'm just loving... I spent eleven years in Ireland and now it's great that I have moved and tried something different. I have no regrets.”