10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
Nine months on, both sides threw off the shackles to share out 43 points in a free-flowing first half full of enterprising rugby.
Dan Parks, Connacht's new general, converted David McSharry's seventh-minute try and added four penalties to move the hosts 19-9 ahead.
But 'Quins raided in for 15 crucial points in the closing 11 minutes before the break, that profitable spell being crowned by Danny Care's two shrewdly-taken tries.
Ben Botica, an excellent replacement for Nick Evans against Biarritz in the opening round, landed an injury-time penalty to complete a 24-19 turnaround by the interval.
Botica turned in another dazzling place-kicking display with a 20-point haul, as two further three-pointers from him in the second period killed off Connacht's doughty challenge.
The province threw everything at the English champions, making a series of changes in a strength-sapping final quarter, but their hunt for a deserved losing bonus point went unrewarded.
The westerners had settled quickly with a fine touchfinder from Parks and a lineout steal from Mike McCarthy, yet the visitors were the ones to show the early adventure.
Sam Smith and Mike Brown danced into the Connacht half, Care's backhanded pass released Maurie Fa'asavalu and the result was a first penalty success from Botica.
Connacht hit back within two minutes, George Naoupu taking a quick tap and Parks' flat pass sent McSharry motoring through a gap between Jordan Turner-Hall and Matt Hopper and in behind the posts.
Parks' simple conversion was cancelled out by Botica's second three-pointer, following some more quick-witted attacking from 'Quins.
The Aviva Premiership outfit were looking the more potent side, but the wind-assisted Parks punched over a terrific 52-metre penalty to make it 10-6.
This feisty encounter was turning into a fascinating duel between the out-halves as tournament newcomer Botica answered back in the 16th minute.
Connacht continued to make a flurry of tackles, their industry up front setting up a 45-metre penalty that Parks brilliantly bent through the posts.
'Quins blundered as Turner-Hall got isolated in a promising position and then after a smashing break from Kieran Marmion, the visitors infringed at a ruck in front of their posts and Parks stretched the margin to seven points.
The former Scotland international then nudged over his third penalty on the trot, set up by Fetu'u Vainikolo's midfield snipe and further input from John Muldoon and McCarthy.
But the hosts were rocked by the concession of a try on the half hour mark as man-of-the-match Care broke away from a scrum and evaded Muldoon's grasp on the way to the line.
The unconverted effort spurred Conor O'Shea's side on and Care nabbed his second seven minutes later, dummying to his right from a close-in ruck and wriggling in past Muldoon again.
Botica converted this time and his penalty in added time left Connacht five adrift at the break, with the tide turning sharply against them.
McCarthy muscled forward to create the opening for Parks' fifth penalty of the night as the tempo dropped briefly in the third quarter.
Botica maintained his high standards from the kicking tee with a surefooted 50-metre strike, and he split the posts from closer in after Adrian Flavin infringed.
Captain Chris Robshaw and Nick Easter were to the fore as 'Quins tightened their grip on the game in the closing stages.
Connacht lacked the territory to really put 'Quins under pressure despite some purposeful running from the likes of Marmion, Tiernan O'Halloran and Naoupu.
The defeat leaves Elwood's charges needing to produce the goods in the back-to-back games against Biarritz in December.
|Connacht Rugby Score Card|
|Harlequins Score Card|