Connacht deny Aironi historic win
April 21, 2012
Rodney Ah You crossed for a late try as Connacht conjured a great escape
© PA Photos
Matthew Jarvis landed a monster penalty with the last kick of the game to guide Connacht to a smash and grab 19-16 win over Italian side Aironi.
Connacht were below par for much of this tie at the Sportsground, trailing 16-3 at one stage due to a Quintin Geldenhuys try and some fine place kicking from Luciano Orquera. Aironi were gunning for their first ever away victory, but Connacht tallied up 16 points in the final quarter to boost their hopes of a best ever league finish of eighth.
Eric Elwood's men struggled to make any impact during a listless first half, with the favourites' tag perhaps playing its part. They had beaten the Dragons and Ulster in recent weeks and were hoping to win three successive league fixtures for the first time in nine years.
Italian international Orquera dinked over a drop goal to give the visitors a 13th minute lead, with Marco Bortolami and Josh Sole leading by example up front. Tyson Keats and Orquera provided the direction for Rowland Phillips' men and although Miah Nikora levelled with a penalty, Aironi continued to force the pace.
Connacht coughed up possession cheaply and had a misfiring lineout. It was from a set piece move that Aironi sprung lock Geldenhuys through for his 23rd minute try. Orquera converted and added a penalty by the half hour mark to leave Connacht in serious trouble, with the injury-enforced loss of Fetu'u Vainikolo also not helping the hosts. Another three-pointer from the clinical Orquera, following a high tackle, stretched the margin to 16-3 for half-time.
Matteo Pratichetti had to react smartly to touch down for a drop out after John Muldoon blocked a clearance kick and went close to scoring a Connacht try, just after the resumption. Elwood made some changes and there was a gradual improvement to Connacht's play, the first reward of which saw Nikora kick his second penalty.
He added a third seven minutes later but the home side were beginning to run out of time as the Italian side manfully defended their lead. But with backs and forwards combining, good hands paved the way for replacement prop Rodney Ah You to score an encouraging 67th-minute try out on the left.
The sin-binning of Joshua Furno unsettled the visitors and as Connacht applied the pressure, the defensive cracks appeared. Nikora converted to bring his side level. And just when the draw seemed likely, a wind-assisted Jarvis, who was sprung from the bench, coolly stroked home the decisive penalty from inside the Connacht half.
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