Connacht were beaten 20-6 by Italian side Aironi at the Stadio Zaffanella in Italy to stretch their losing streak into the New Year.
A try from Sinoti Sinoti and five penalties kicked by out-half Luciano Orquera was enought to give Aironi a comfortable victory over a Connacht side that could only muster two penalties, scored by Matthew Jarvis and Niall O’Connor.
Connacht got off to a bad start when Orquera struck a penalty within the first four minutes to set a marker for the rest of the game, and the Italian out-half was on the score sheet again with another penalty in the 11th minute to double the home side’s lead.
Matthew Jarvis missed a chance to reduce the deficit when he put his penalty wide and five minutes later Orquera made him pay by scoring another penalty and putting Aironi clear of the travelling Irish for half time.
The situation got slightly worse for Connacht just before half time when Dylan Rogers was shown a yellow card for preventing a try-scoring opportunity, the final straw in a list of consistent fouls by the Connacht prop.
The second half started in a similar fashion to the first for Connacht when Aironi’s attack in the 43rd minute took full advantage of their extra man and Sinoti Sinoti scored what proved to be the only try of the game.
Connacht were given a glimmer of hope when Orquera missed his conversion but the Aironi out half then put another three points between the sides just four minutes later with a penalty.
Jarvis finally put three points on the board for the Eric Elwood’s side from a penalty but Orquera once again made no mistake from a penalty in the 54th minute, which would prove to be the Italian’s last scored points of the game, making the score 20-3 with over 25 minutes to play.
From that moment on it was all Connacht as Aironi sat back on their considerable lead, confident their defence could hold out against the attacks the away side sent at them.
Unfortunately, their confidence proved to be well-placed as Connacht could not break down the Italian rearguard despite several agonisingly close moments.
Aironi prop Fabiano Stabiano was sin-binned in the 58th minute for a punch on Michael Swift and just a minute later Connacht nearly got a try, but substitute Niall O’Connor’s chipped pass behind the line fell to the hands of an Aironi player.
Fetu’u Vainikolo came within inches of the Aironi try line when his run down the right wing was halted by the Italian defence and the referee needed the help of the TMO to declare that he didn’t score the try.
Connacht eventually settled for a penalty in front of the posts to show something for their sustained pressure in the 67th minute which Niall O’Connor converted to make it 20-6.
One of Aironi’s only noticeable attacks in the last 20 minutes of the game came when Gabriel Pizzaro showed some flare with an impressive pass behind his back which Sinoti got on the end of, only for the Connacht defence to stop him in his tracks.
Connacht were once again inches from their first try when they worked the ball across Aironi’s try line only for Swift to be held up by the home team’s defence before he could ground the ball.
Connacht had a few more chances to reduce the deficit but the Italians stood strong until the referee blew the final whistle.
Despite this win, Aironi stay bottom of the league but are now only three points behind Connacht, who are still looking for their first win since September.