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Connacht reach Pro12 semi-finals despite last-gasp loss

Pat Lam’s men will now host champions Glasgow Warriors next Saturday in a likely battle for a home a semi-final.

Connacht's Tiernan O’Halloran is tackled.
Connacht's Tiernan O’Halloran is tackled.
Image: Alfio Guarise/INPHO

Benetton Treviso 22

Connacht 21

By John Fallon at Stadio Monigo

CONNACHT ARE THROUGH to the semi-finals of the Pro12 for the first time after securing the point they needed to guarantee their place in the knockout stages.

But they were denied the win when Treviso landed a penalty from 48 yards in the final moment of the game to keep their Champions Cup hopes alive.

New Zealander Jayden Hayward kept his nerve after they won the penalty in a scrum and Connacht paid a hefty price for not putting the game away.

Pat Lam’s men will now host champions Glasgow Warriors next Saturday in a likely battle for a home semi-final.

Connacht, having made 10 changes to the side which defeated Munster last time out, had a dream start and raced into a 14-0 lead after just 15 minutes.

They were full of running from deep from the outset in the perfect conditions and an initial break by Fionn Carr led to the opening try after 12 minutes, when Jake Heenan popped a pass for Rory Parata to score his first Pro12 try.

Scrum-half John Cooney was on kicking duty and slotted the extras. And he did the same three minutes later when Carr, Connacht’s all-time top try scorer, scored his 29th league try for the province.

But Treviso, battling with Zebre for the Italian Champions Cup spot, were not prepared to roll over.

They got back in the contest going into the second quarter when Luca Morisi got over when they went to the left corner with a penalty and worked the ball infield well from the lineout.

Hayward missed the straightforward conversion but then landed one from the left touchline after 24 minutes after Braam Steyn scored in the corner.

Treviso finished the half strongly, getting on top in the scrum and while they turned around with Connacht 14-12 in front, the Italians hit the front seven minutes after the restart when their superiority in the scrum was rewarded with a penalty try which Hayward converted to make it 19-14.

But Connacht hit back and scored a wonderful try, running it through the backs, many of whom handled it several times, and going from wing to wing before a crack appeared and Peter Robb dived over in the right corner to tie the match after 53 minutes.

Cooney landed his third conversion from the right touchline to make it 21-19 to the visitors, before Hayward won his side the match with the last act of the game.

Treviso scorers: Tries: Luca Morisi, Braam Steyn, penalty try. Cons: Jayden Hayward (2). Pen: Hayward

Connacht scorers: Tries: Rory Parata, Fionn Carr, Peter Robb. Cons: John Cooney (3).

Benetton Rugby: Jayden Hayward, Ludovico Nitoglia (Alberto Lucchese ’68), Luca Morisi (Tommaso Iannone ’27), Alberto Sgarbi, Angelo Esposito; Sam Christie (Luke McLean 17), Edoardo Gori; Matteo Zanusso, Ornel Gega (Davide Giazzon ’71), Simone Ferrari (M Salesi ’68); Filo Paulo, Tom Palmer (Marco Fuser ’54); Francesco Minto, Alessandro Zanni, Braam Steyn (Marco Lazzaroni ’71).

Replacements not used: Cherif Traorè,

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran; Niya Adeolokun, Rory Parata (Robbie Henshaw ’51), Peter Robb, Fionn Carr; Jack Carty (AJ MacGinty ’51), John Cooney (Caolin Blade ’68); Ronan Loughney (Finlay Bealham ’46), Tom McCartney (Dave Heffernan ’79), Rodney Ah You (JP Cooney ’60); Quinn Roux (Aly Muldowney ’68), Andrew Browne; Sean O’Brien, Jake Heenan (John Muldoon ’58), Eoin McKeon

Replacements not used: none

Referee – Peter Fitzgibbon (IRFU)

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About the author:

John Fallon

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