An 18-3 victory over Benetton Treviso at the Galway Sportsground has propelled Connacht into eighth in the Pro 12 league. In grabbing their third win of the campaign before the break for the autumn internationals, Connacht leapfrogged their opponents to conclude the series of 10 games on the bounce, including the opening two Heineken Cup rounds, with a much-needed victory.
Coach Eric Elwood said Connacht had put a “big focus” on winning this match, particularly having lost to the Italians in the corresponding fixture last season.
"We had been disappointed with some of the games we left behind early in the year, but we could not do anything about that - that was why we put a big focus on this game - it was a must win and, yes results went our way over the weekend, but was no use to use unless we did our business.
"At the start of the game, with the weather that was in it, if someone had said we would win by tries to nil, 18 - 3, would we take it? Absolutely.”
Several injured players who were making their return to action stamped their mark on the contest. Former South African Stormer Danie Poolman grabbed his first try in his first start, while captain Gavin Duffy, making his return to action as a replacement, was just seconds on the pitch when he sealed the victory with a 72nd minute try. Elwood also singled out returning flanker Andrew Browne, alongside veteran Michael Swift for praise.
"I thought Andrew Browne was terrific - for a guy who was out all last season, to come back at the start of the year and then suffer a hamstring injury and to have now played a full 80 minutes, he was terrific. Michael Swift was also immense in defence, and a lot of credit goes to those two guys in particular."
The driving rain did not make for expansive rugby, and as a result outhalf Dan Parks took charge with his territorial kicking, while the pack, and Mike McCarthy in particular, disrupted the Treviso line-outs with a number of valuable steals and stymied the Italian big men in the maul. However the Italians, strong with ball in hand, carved out a number of chances, but it was Parks who put the home side 6-0 in front with two penalties in the opening 15 minutes, and his perfect punt in the 29th minute resulted in Poolman's 29th minute try that turned the game, giving Connacht a 13 - 0 half-time lead.
A series of penalties gave Treviso an attacking platform after the interval, but all they could muster was a penalty from outhalf Alberto di Bernardo despite having gained a foothold in the contest. Well organised defence ensured Treviso ran out of ideas and it was a super break from John Muldoon that set up Duffy for the late try.
Connacht: R Henshaw; T O'Halloran, D Poolman, D McSharry, F Vainikolo; D Parks, K Marmion; D Buckley, J Harris-Wright, N White; M Swift, M McCarthy; A Browne, J O'Connor, E McKeon. Replacements, J Muldoon for O'Connor (52m ), M Kearney for McCarthy (55m ), A Flavin for Harris-Wright (60m ), R Ah You for Buckley (67m ), R Loughney for White (70m ), G Duffy for O'Halloran (72m ), D Moore for Marmion and M Nikora for Parks (both 78m ).
Benetton Treviso: B Williams; A Pratichetti, C Loamanu, A Vilk, A Esposito, A Di Bernardo, F Semenzto; M Muccignat, F Sbaraglini, J Roux; M Fuser, C Van Zyl; M Vosawai, V Bernabo, M Filippucci. Replacements, G Toniolatti for Esposito (52m ), E Ceccato for Sbaraglini, A De Marchi for Muccignat and I Fernadez-Rouyet for Roux (all 59m ), C Maistri for Filippucci, J Ambrosini for Williams (74m ), E Galon for Vilk (78m ).
Referee: L Hodges (WRU ).