Treviso 23 Connacht 23: An injury time try by Paul O’Donohoe saw Connacht claim a dramatic draw last night against Treviso.
Trailing by seven points as the game entered its dying embers, it seemed as though Eric Elwood’s final away day venture would end in defeat as the Benetton-backed Italians turned around a first-half deficit to lead for most of the second half
However, with the last roll of the dice, substitute O’Donohoe scored a close range try, converted by Dan Parks, to earn the westerners a share of the spoils.
Connacht were always likely to be up against it in this re-arranged fixture, but toiled manfully in humid conditions.
Benetton looked the brighter of the sides early on and opened the scoring four minutes in with a penalty by Alberto di Bernardo.
And when Parks pulled his first effort of the night wide shortly afterwards, one wondered whether Connacht might already be in holiday mode.
However, they snapped into action midway through the half with a try straight off the training paddock.
Presented with a lineout on the 22, Parks took a flat ball to the line before his inside pass put Fetu’s Vainikola through the tiniest gaps and away from the cover defence.
The Tongan winger still had a lot to do but a combination of speed, strength and sheer determination eventually took him over the line.
Parks converted to leave Connacht 7-3 ahead, a non-too shabby position given they had been on the back foot up to then.
Even after their try, much of their best work came in defence, where the backrow trio of Browne, McKeon and Naoupu were particularly unwavering.
And as the half wore on, Treviso began to grow more and more frustrated, continuously falling foul of referee Neil Paterson.
Parks was presented with two penalties to extend Connacht’s advantage before the break, both from the 40-metre line.
He fluffed the first, but nailed the second, which all meant that despite seeing precious little off the ball, Connacht went down the tunnel with a healthy 10-3 advantage.
Within nine minutes of the second half, however, Benetton had managed to wipe out the deficit.
Di Bernardo was again to the fore, landing two penalties either side of a conversion after a blocked down clearance by Parks allowed Edoardo Gori in for Treviso’s first try of the evening.
Parks steadied the ship with two penalties of his own, but Elwood’s men were by now on the ropes as Treviso swarmed forward with wave after wave of attack.
To their immense credit, Connacht held out against everything that was thrown against them right up until the final ten minutes.
And when the walls finally crumbled, they did so in controversial circumstances, a penalty try awarded in Benetton’s favour after a brace of scrum drives five metres from the line.
Di Bernardo converted from in front of the posts but home celebrations had counted on O’Donohoe’s final, dramatic act.
From a close-range ruck, the tiny scrumhalf burrowed home through a tiny chink of light, leaving Parks with the simplest of kicks to tie up the scores.
TREVISO: L McLean; L Nitoglia, M Capagnaro, G L Grange, G Toniolatti; A di Bernardo, E Gori; M Rizzo, L Ghiraldini, I Fernandez-Rouyet; F Minto, V Bernabo; S Favaro , A Zanni, R Barbieri.
Replacements: A de Marchi for Rizzo, M Filippucci for Barbieri, L Cittadini for Fernandez-Rouyet (all 53 mins), A Pavanello for Bernabo, T Botes for Toniolatti, G Maistri for Ghiraldini (all 55 mins), A Pratichetti for Nitoglia
CONNACHT: G Duffy; M Healy, D Poolman, B Murphy, F Vainikolo; D Parks, K Marmion; B Wilkinson, E Reynecke, R Loughney; M Swift, M McCarthy; A Browne, E McKeon, G Naoupu.
Replacements: J Muldoon for Naoupu (55 mins), M Kearney for McKeon (57 mins), R Ah You for Wilkinson (64 mins), P O’Donohoe for Marmion, JP Cooney for Loughney (both 70 mins), A Flavin for Reynecke (73 mins), T O’Halloran for Healy (75 mins). <QA0>
Referee: N Paterson (SRU).