...Connacht flanker Matt Lacey taking on the Catania defence in the sides' first meeting at the Sportsground in October. Lacey touched down twice in Sicily on Friday night but the westerners still fell to their second defeat of the Challenge Cup pool stages...
Connacht were left sickened in Sicily on Friday night, but the province received the perfect pick-me-up on Saturday when news of Newcastle's surprising win in Brive filtered through.
EUROPEAN CHALLENGE CUP: POOL 5: Friday, January 20
AMATORI CATANIA 28 CONNACHT 24, Stadio Santa Maria Goretti (Att: 900)
Scorers: Catania: Tries: Mauro Commuzzi 2, Alejandro Krancz; Cons: Barry Irving 2; Pens: Irving 3
Connacht: Tries: Ted Robinson, Colm Rigney, Matt Lacey 2; Cons: David Slemen, Paul Warwick
Despite Friday's hiccup, Connacht made it through to the Challenge Cup quarter-finals for the fourth consecutive season thanks to Newcastle's 24-17 in Brive on Saturday.
In a further twist, Connacht will travel to the Kingston Park Stadium to play Newcastle, the team that ensured their qualification, in the last eight. Quarter-final ties will take place on the weekend of March 31 to April 2.
The other quarter-final games are dominated by English sides - Gloucester are at home to Brive, London Irish will face Bayonne at the Madejski Stadium, while Worcester Warriors, the winners of Connacht's Pool Five, face a tricky trip to Northampton.
Two tries in the opening 12 minutes was the ideal start for Michael Bradley's men on Friday. A sweeping attack saw winger Ted Robinson jet in for a try in the right corner with barely a minute on the clock. David Slemen missed the conversion but the fly half managed to add the extras to number 8 Colm Rigney's try, 11 minutes later. A Chris Keane break helped set up Rigney's rumble over the line.
However, things turned sour for the visitors before the break when Catania managed to hit the front - 13-12 - with Connacht down to 14 men. Winger Conor McPhillips was sent to the sin bin for killing the ball.
Barry Irving landed a penalty for the Italians on 16 minutes, then with the Connacht defence sucked in, winger Mauro Commuzzi scorched over for a converted try on 32 minutes. With McPhillips off the field, Scottish fly half Irving added a penalty in injury-time for Catania's single point lead.
Connacht had a good start to the second half with the powerful Rigney particularly prominent with ball in hand, but Catania replacement Siako Tukino helped set up a try for his fellow back row Alejandro Krancz on 54 minutes, which Irving converted.
Nine minutes later, flanker Matt Lacey managed to drive over for a third Connacht try with replacement Paul Warwick converting for a 20-19 deficit. Could the westerners reel the hosts in in the final quarter? Unfortunately the answer was no, despite Lacey getting in for his second try of the night.
Catania snapped back the lead thanks to Commuzzi racing onto an Irving grubber kick to score. The latter missed the conversion, but so too did Warwick - his conversion of Lacey's 71st-minute try hit the post and Irving confirmed Catania's second win of the pool stages with a subsequent penalty.
CATANIA: Juan Cosa; Mauro Commuzzi, Andrea Romagnoli, Mauro Estomba, Benjamin de Jager (capt); Barry Irving, Emanuel Viassiolo; Sebastian Levaggi, Diego Vidal, Federico Condorelli, Mario Privitera, Juan Pablo Lagarrigue, Alejandro Krancz, Massimiliano Vinti, Mariano Lorenzetti.
Replacements used: Siako Tukino for Lorenzetti (half-time), Marco Geraci for Condorelli (79 mins). Not used: Marco Suaria, Raffaele Marino, Massimiliano Gravagna, Francesco Fala Pappelardo, Alessandro Pinna.
CONNACHT: Matt Mostyn; Ted Robinson, John Hearty, Keith Matthews, Conor McPhillips; David Slemen, Chris Keane; Dan McFarland, John Fogarty, Adrian Clarke, Christian Short, Andrew Farley, John Muldoon, Matt Lacey, Colm Rigney.
Replacements used: Paul Warwick for Slemen (56 mins), Michael Swift for Short (67), Mark McHugh for Mostyn (77). Not used: Chris Venter, Stephen Knoop, Brendan O'Connor, Tom Tierney.
Sin Bin: McPhillips (Connacht (40+1 mins)
Referee: Roy Maybank (England)