Connacht fell to their first defeat of European Challenge Cup Pool Five as a late Drew Hickey try, converted by 20-point hero Shane Drahm, saw them downed 30-20 by Worcester Warriors.
EUROPEAN CHALLENGE CUP: POOL 5: Saturday, December 10
WORCESTER WARRIORS 30 CONNACHT 20, Sixways Stadium (Att: 6,137)
Scorers: Worcester: Tries: Nicolas Le Roux, Shane Drahm, Drew Hickey; Cons: Drahm 3; Pens: Drahm 3
Connacht: Tries: Keith Matthews, Matt Mostyn; Cons: David Slemen 2; Pens: Slemen 2
Hickey's injury-time try robbed Connacht of a bonus point, and in truth, Michael Bradley's side deserved more than that from a game which they led 20-17 heading into the final quarter.
Warriors' fly-half Drahm, the obvious contender for man-of-the-match, quickly tagged on two penalties for the home side and Connacht's defence failed to hold up on 81 minutes when Hickey barged over close to the posts to complete a dramatic 13-point turn around.
It's been a barren spell for Bradley's charges of late. Since edging Montpellier in France at the end of October, the westerners lost twice to Glasgow (30-15) and Leinster (21-9) to remain rooted to the bottom of the Celtic League, but Saturday's performance was a promising one.
Playing to their strengths, Worcester's pack controlled the opening stages of this Pool Five tie and grabbed the opening try on 12 minutes when second phase saw centre Thomas Lombard put full-back Nicolas Le Roux bursting through a gap on a straight angle for the score.
Still, Connacht never allowed their heads to drop and when Worcester captain Pat Sanderson was yellow carded, four minutes after the try, for failing to retreat the full ten metres for Chris Keane's quick tap penalty, the visitors came more into it.
Fly-half David Slemen kicked the resultant penalty and on 21 minutes, scrum half Keane prized open the Warriors' defence sufficiently enough for young centre Keith Matthews to dart through and go under the posts for his fourth try in two European games.
Slemen's conversion put Connacht 10-7 up, but missed a subsequent penalty and that lead was short-lived. Six minutes before the break, Aussie Drahm ended a well-executed backline move to peg the Irish province back and his conversion saw Worcester in at the break with a 14-10 buffer.
Connacht flanker Matt Lacey handed Worcester another three points early in the second half as he was penalised for failing to release in the tackle, and Drahm mopped up with the penalty.
Slemen then closed the gap with his second penalty and a second try for Connacht followed on the hour mark when another Keane-led attack saw former Ireland full-back Matt Mostyn power over from the ten-metre line, evading the tackles for his second try of the pool campaign.
The result now hung in the balance. Slemen's conversion put Connacht 20-17 in front, but it became evident that Connacht's lack of a winning pedigree of late would stand against them in the final furlong at Sixways.
Worcester are not fourth in the current Guinness Premiership standings for nothing. Anthony Eddy's men regrouped and tried to grab an immediate try back but Connacht's defence was a stern one.
Brisbane-born Drahm, who has scored 106 points in nine Premiership outings this season, opted for the posts on 62 and 69 minutes, being successful with both attempts - the second after Connacht lock Christian Short had been sent to the bin - to ease the Warriors back in front.
Slemen had a chance to level on 72 minutes but his long range penalty effort tailed off and Hickey's try in injury-time proved the match-winner, rubbing salt into Connacht wounds. Thankfully for the westerners, there is an immediate chance of revenge with Eddy's side due at the Sportsground next Saturday (kick-off 2.00pm).
Now four points behind Worcester in Pool Five, that is a must-win game for the two-time semi-finalists Connacht.
12 minutes - Worcester try: Nicolas Le Roux - 5-0; conversion: Shane Drahm - 7-0
16 mins - Worcester yellow card: Pat Sanderson
17 mins - Connacht penalty: David Slemen - 7-3
21 mins - Connacht try: Keith Matthews - 7-8; conversion: David Slemen - 7-10
34 mins - Worcester try: Shane Drahm - 12-10; conversion: Shane Drahm - 14-10
Half-time - Worcester 14 Connacht 10
45 mins - Worcester penalty: Shane Drahm - 17-10
49 mins - Connacht penalty: David Slemen - 17-13
60 mins - Connacht try: Matt Mostyn - 17-18; conversion: David Slemen - 17-20
62 mins - Worcester penalty: Shane Drahm - 20-20
67 mins - Connacht yellow card: Christian Short
69 mins - Worcester penalty: Shane Drahm - 23-20
80(+1) mins - Worcester try: Drew Hickey - 28-20; conversion: Shane Drahm - 30-20
Full-time - Worcester 30 Connacht 20
WORCESTER: Nicolas Le Roux; Uche O'Duoza, Thomas Lombard, Simon Whatling, Thinus Delport; Shane Drahm, Matthew Powell; Tony Windo, Chris Fortey, Chris Horsman, Phil Murphy, Craig Gillis, Kai Horstmann, Pat Sanderson (capt), Drew Hickey.
Replacements used: Ed O'Donaghue for Murphy (56 mins), Lee Fortey for Horsman (58), Johnny Tuamoheloa for Horstmann (70). Not used: Steven Sparks, Andy Gomarsall, James Brown, Mark Tucker.
CONNACHT: Matt Mostyn; Ted Robinson, John Hearty, Keith Matthews, Conor McPhillips; David Sleman, Chris Keane; Ray Hogan, John Fogarty, Stephen Knoop, Christian Short, Andrew Farley (capt), John Muldoon, Matt Lacey, Colm Rigney.
Replacements used: Michael Swift for Rigney (65 mins), Andrew Gallagher for Short (77). Not used: Joe Merrigan, Adrian Clarke, Tom Tierney, Daniel Riordan, Conor O'Loughlin.
Sin-Bin: Sanderson (Worcester) (16), Short (Connacht) (67).
Referee: Jean-Pierre Matheu (France)