Connacht’s season has gone from bad to worse after losing 13-15 to Treviso on a wet and bitterly cold night at the Sportsground.
Two first-half tries from Ludovico Nitoglia and Tommaso Iannone inside 25 minutes stunned the home side and thus, Connacht were chasing the game until the final whistle.
Dave McSharry pulled a try back for Connacht before the break, ducking and weaving his way over the line, but Niall O’ Connor missed two vital kicks in either half, while opposite number Willem De Waal kicked one conversion and one penalty as Treviso move up to sixth, with their third away win in a season, that is fast becoming one to remember for the Italians.
Connacht came out of the blocks fired up keeping ball in hand, dominating possession and territory but it was Treviso who took the lead through a De Wall penalty on 11 minutes.
Sloppy play from Connacht allowed Nitoglia to scamper away from Tiernan O’Halloran on the wing and Williams sent him in by the posts. De Waal added the extras and Connacht found themselves 10-0 down in no time.
A calamitous second try involving Duffy, allowed Treviso winger Iannone to hack it down the line and dive over for five points. De Waal may have missed the conversion, but at 15-0, it was clear the Irish province needed a score, and badly.
Connacht threw everything at Treviso from the restart and through pressure from their forwards, scrum-half Semenzato earned a yellow card for killing the ball close to his try-line.
McSharry went over for his first try for the province eight minutes from the break, showing quick feet and impressive strength. O’ Connor added the extras and Connacht went in 7-15 down at the break.
The out-half missed a kickable penalty early in the second-half after Paul Derbyshire was pinged at a ruck. From then on it was all the home side but like many games this season, knock-ons and handling errors thwarted their chances time and again.
That said, referee Neil Hennessy and his touch judges didn’t help matters making some baffling decisions throughout the game and despite carding Vosawai for not rolling away, should have brandished it on several occasions, mostly for the Italians consistent flirtation with off-side.
That penalty allowed O’Connor squeeze the gap back to five points and as Rodney Ah You came off the home bench to beef up their scrum, Connacht turned to patient rugby and O’Connor struck penalty number two to bring the gap to two points.
John Muldoon’s rampaging run minutes from the end was duly fumbled and Treviso slowed the game down, frustrating Connacht, to hold on for a famous win for the Italian side.
Treviso has now won three times on the road this season while its six straight defeats for Connacht in the league. The better team lost but that won’t count for much come seasons end.
Even the benefit of a losing bonus point can’t gloss over the reality that such a promising season is now falling apart at the seams and, who knows where Connacht will pick up points as they face Munster at home and then Leinster away in their next two RaboDirectPRO 12 games.
But perhaps the distraction of Gloucester next Saturday in the Heineken Cup is whats needed to reinvigorate Connacht rugby