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Connacht 19 - 16 - Aironi Connacht Learning Fast

By Rob Murphy @
April 25 2012

Saturday’s last gasp 19-16 win over Aironi was almost the perfect win from a Connacht point of view, outstripping a bonus point victory for the simple reason that Eric Elwood and co learned more from the 80 minutes on Saturday than any other RaboDirect Pro 12 contest this season.

25/04/12 - From: Rob Murphy at


The Sportsground


A bonus point win was never on the cards anyway, Aironi may be bottom but they possess far too much international class in the likes of Ongaro, Marco Bortolami, Josh Sole and co to be overawed by a trip west.

They are a franchise on the brink of extinction because financial pressures but they played with pride and passion here and quite frankly deserved a first ever away win in their second season as a club. It didn’t come because Connacht have a streetwise edge to their play these days and are a hard team to shift.

The clock had ticked into the 77th minute when Rodney Ah You charged over after sustained pressure. Miah Nikora converted to level and no Connacht player or supporter was ready to accept their lot despite the fact that they had seemingly got out of jail having trailed by 13 at the break and struggled to assert themselves.

They wanted more and got it with a penalty five metres inside their own half at scrum time while while Luca Redolfini was in the sin bin. Young 21 year old out-half/utility-back Matthew Jarvis was on the field at that stage, he was the only man with the range but his recent pedigree hardly suggested he was going to nail it.

The kick was so well struck that it landed on the dog track far behind the goal, the wind helped but the tall Welsh born, Irish qualified goal kicker had done most of the work with the very last kick of an odd encounter. He was enveloped and the Sportsground was bouncing.

For Elwood, captain Gavin Duffy and all, this was a turning point. These type of games rarely fall Connacht’s way, they struggled to put a second strong Treviso away in November in similar circumstances and one wondered what it would take for some composure to emerge in such scenarios.

John Muldoon led the comeback, it was a man mountain performance from the blindside flanker, he ripped balls from well clenched arms, he charged forward with ball in hand, pounded rucks, yet another towering display.

The scrum was a key factor too with Creggs native Dennis Buckley starting in place of the injured Brett Wilkinson and putting in a fine 80 minutes. Others deserve their due, none more so than George Naoupu who continues to be a vital cog in the forward ball carries.

Aironi had the dream start in the contest, they had the wind but it was their disruptive efforts at the breakdown and solid lineout that was providing a platform. The ever impressive Luciano Ongaro had played a key role in their victory over Connacht back in January and he kicked well here.

His early drop goal was canceled out by Nikora but on 20 minutes South African born second row Quintin Geldenhuys crashed over in the corner after sustained pressure for their try and a touchline conversion stretched the lead. Ongaro proceeded to notch up two fourth penalties as the half wore on to stretch the lead to 16-3 at the break.

Connacht certainly had a better grip on proceedings after half time but basic errors were as prominent as they were in the first half, sloppy knock-ons, a miss-firing lineout, it was all adding up. Slowly however, they chipped away with O’Halloran showing good feet in attack out wide and the forwards winning their battles, Nikora tagged out two penalties to get them within range for that late surge.

So three in a row underlines a strong finish by this young squad which has some reinforcements on the way yet is losing talent in the shape of Ray Ofisa and Henry Fa’affili who has started all eight games where Connacht have won this season. They’ll need to be replaced, Willie Faloon will cover the openside gap but 12 remains an issue.

Next season can’t come soon enough in one sense but the real test of Elwood’s emerging squad might not come until the winter months where Connacht continue to struggle. This late surge got us looking at stats and they show some interesting trends.

For some reason over the past four seasons 70 percent of Connacht’s 23 victories have come in the first and last quarter of the season. Connacht won just 5 of 44 games played between November and March and a far more encouraging 18 of 44 played in Autumn and Spring.

Most theories to explain that trend would centre on the smaller squad and the reality of it been stretched to its limit during the busy winter months and fresher at either end of the campaign after some vital downtime. A stronger squad going forward may well hold the key to further progress.

In the meantime, Connacht are wading into unchartered territory in two weeks time when they finish their campaign in Glasgow looking for three away wins in a season for the first time since 2004 and hoping to hold eighth position which would be a record since the league system started in 2003. It’s all progress.


Scorers --

Connacht: R Ah You try, M Nikora 3 pens, 2 cons, M Jarvis pen.

Aironi: Q Geldenhuys try, L Orquera 2 pens,d-g, con.


Connacht: G Duffy (M Jarvis 67); T O'Halloran, K Tonetti, H Fa'afili, F Vainikolo (E Griffin 28); M Nikora, F Murphy (P O'Donohoe 69); D Buckley, E Reynecke (A Flavin h-t), R Loughney (R Ah You, 56); M Swift (J O'Connor 48), M McCarthy (M Kearney 66); J Muldoon, R Ofisa, G Naoupu.


Aironi: T Tebaldi; G Toniolatti, S Sinoti, M Pratichetti, G Venditti; L Orquera (N Oliver 71), T Keats; M Aguero, F Ongaro, L Romano (L Redolfini 62); Q Geldenhuys (J Furno, 71), M Bortolami; N Cattina (L Romano 79), S Favaro, J Sole (N Williams, 71).


Referee: I Davies (Wales).

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Connacht 19 - 16 - Aironi Connacht Learning Fast
Discussion started by Connacht Rugby Supporters (IP Logged), 25/04/2012 16:45
Connacht Rugby Supporters
Connacht Rugby Supporters
25/04/2012 16:45
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26/04/2012 09:40
Great, great comeback win by the lads. A bit sluggish out of the blocks against a very motivated Aironi (on the back of a narrow miss against Scarlets).

Definitely progress to push on for the win with so little time on the clock. Delighted to see Matt Jarv sealing the deal, nice little confidence boost for him...

I see the future, and it's Green again...

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