Treviso 22 Connacht 21: In a season of highs, this was certainly one of the lowest, top of the table against the bottom. The desperation and pride of Treviso to hold on to the Italian’s Champions Cup spot proved enough to grab an injury-time win against a Connacht outfit that lacked its normal finishing prowess, and was murdered in the scrum.
If there is a consolation, it is that Connacht have qualified for the Pro 12 semi-finals for the first time by virtue of a losing bonus point, but it still will not sit well with Connacht coach Pat Lam to lose to a side that had only won two matches this season until last evening.
“Bitterly disappointed,” said Lam. “We acknowledge we are through to the semi-finals, but the No 1 thing is our performance and we will take a lot of learnings and will be determined when we get back to have a good week heading into a massive game against Glasgow.
“We had control of the game at 14-0, but we blew so many chances.”
What was expected to be plain sailing for top-of-the-table Connacht against the league strugglers turned into a disjointed and unstructured affair. They conceded a last-minute scrum for a forward pass, and the Italians, sensing their moment, took it. Winning the penalty they craved, fullback Jayden Haywood knocked over the effort from just inside halfway to prompt huge celebrations from the home fans.
Connacht enjoyed a blistering opening 15 minutes, opening their tally with a Rory Parata try after 12 minutes. In a rehearsed move, Robb and John Cooney came close before Heenan passed for Parata to crash over, Cooney adding the conversion. Within five minutes Pat Lam’s side had struck for the second — Carr finished Carty’s through-chip and Cooney converting.
However, Treviso took control, their scrum providing the platform.
Scrumhalf Edoarda Gori set up the first try, breaking from the back of the maul, and linking with centre Alberto Sgarbi with Luca Morisi finishing off with ease.
Although Hayward missed the conversion, it provided the home side with with impetus.
then No 8 Abraham Steyn raced up the line, brushing Tiernan O’Halloran aside, and diving over in the left corner. Hayward’s conversion closed the gap to just two points.
Connacht reclaimed the initiative after Steyn was penalised for shoulder charge on O’Halloran, but were unable to score, going into the break 14-12 ahead.
The second half start was ominous for what was to follow when Treviso with the upper hand in the scrum, forcing three penalties.
The fourth after Finlay Bealham had replaced Ronan Loughnyy led to a penalty try, and Hayward’s conversion put the home side in front for the first time.
They continued to hold sway up front until the introduction of Robbie Henshaw and AJ MaGinty seemed to spark Connacht again. After a turnover from Jake Heenan O’Halloran and Cooney sent Peter Robb through in the right corner. Cooney adding the conversion to put Pat Lam’s side back into the lead by 21-19. But it was not enough as another execution failure handed Treviso the initiative and the win.
T O’Halloran, N Adeolokun, R Parata, P Robb, F Carr, J Carty J Cooney, R Loughney, T McCartney (cpt),R Ah You, Q Roux, A Browne, S O’Brien, J Heenan, E McKeon.
F Bealham for Loughney (44), A MacGinty for Carty and R Henshaw for Parata (51), J Muldoon for Heenan (57), JP Cooney for Ah YOu (59), C Blade for Cooney (67) and A Muldowney for Roux (67), D Heffernan for McCartney (79).
J Hayward, L Nitoglia, L Morisi, A Sgarbi, A Esposito, S Christie, E Gori, M Zanusso, O Gega, S Ferrari, F Paulo, T Palmer, F Minto, A Zanni (cpt), A Steyn.
, L McLean for Christie (15), T Iannone for Morisi (28), M Fuser for Palmer (58), , A Lucchese for Esposito (67), S Manu for Ferrari (67), D Giazzon for Gega and M Lazzaroni for Steyn (70).
P Fitzgibbon (Ireland).
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