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Connacht Fall To Disappointing Defeat

Connacht Fall To Disappointing Defeat

South African lock Wouter Moore helped I Cavalieri Estra make history on Saturday as his late converted try was enough to see the Italian side emerge triumphant in their first ever Amlin Challenge Cup, overcoming Connacht in a thrilling finish.

Out-half Ian Keatley accounted for 16 of Connacht’s points, but struck the post with a last minute drop goal attempt as Connacht’s hopes of reaching the quarter-finals suffered a setback.

With back rowers John Muldoon and Johnny O’Connor back from injury, the westerners started with purpose and both Keatley and Cavalieri’s Italy-capped full-back Rima Wakarua missed early penalty chances.

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Connacht’s greater share of possession and territory saw them deservedly take the lead in the 15th minute, courtesy of Keatley’s right boot.

Michael Swift produced quick turnover ball from a ruck which inspired a surge down the right wing from Niva Ta’auso and Darragh Fanning, however the space was cut off by the Cavalieri cover.

The hosts’ out-half Alberto Chiesa had to track back to thwart an Adrian Flavin-led attack, with the Connacht hooker almost collecting his own chip ahead.

Coming up to half-time, Connacht made the breakthrough when Keatley burst clean through and in under the posts, after good work in the loose from Rob Sweeney, Cillian Willis and Fanning.

Keatley fired over the conversion and a late penalty from the 10-metre line, leaving last season’s beaten semi-finalists with a 13-3 buffer to take into the second half.

Connacht looked to be well on their way to securing the match points when lock Bernie Upton crashed over for a 44th minute try, and it was one-way traffic at times in spite of a high error count.

But Cavalieri really lifted their game over the remaining half-an-hour, with a series of scores beginning to spread some doubt in Connacht minds.

Winger Niccolò Tempestini scored his club’s first European try, which Wakarua converted brilliantly from the touchline.

Connacht coughed up a penalty after Willis had an attempted clearance kick charged down, and Wakarua stepped up to reduce the arrears to 18-13.

As Connacht began to stutter under increasing pressure, a clever kick from Chiesa pinned the visitors back in their own half and from a subsequent penalty, Wakarua made it a two-point game.

Keatley struck his third successful penalty, from in front of the posts, to get Connacht some breathing space, but gritty Cavalieri clawed their way back level thanks to Moore’s memorable try, the big man intercepting a Frank Murphy pass and showing admirable pace to make it over from 40 metres out.

Wakarua tapped over the conversion from in front of the posts, and suddenly Connacht were staring at a nightmare scenario.

Not even Keatley, the Magners League’s current top points scorer, could rescue them. His last-gasp drop goal shot hit the woodwork and Cavalieri held on to create history at Stadio Lungobisenzio.

Eric Elwood’s men will welcome French side Bayonne to the Sportsground next week, knowing that nothing else than a home win will do.