Connacht undone after lacklustre Italian job

Alessandro Izekor's last-gasp winner in the final minute of Treviso's win against Connacht added a touch of class to a strangely flat affair.

Both teams are currently on the hunt for a strong finish to the season, yet this was a tie that lacked in competitive edge and overall quality.

It was former Munster man Malakai Fekitoa who showed a subtle touch of skill after Nacho Brex's pullback pass in the dying seconds. Fekitoa stepped to the outside of Hawkshaw's shoulder, forcing O'Halloran to bite before assisting Izekor for an electric finish in the corner.

There was much dismay on the faces of the travelling party in the aftermath. Yet this was a game in which Connacht looked peripheral and lacking purpose in attack, so it hardly comes as a surprise that Benetton emerged victorious.

On the flipside, a dogged defensive effort should exorcise some of the demons from Connacht's recent dismantling by the Lions. A further positive was Shamus Hurley-Langton's performance, who registered nine successful carries, two turnovers and 21 tackles off 100% tackle success. Scrum-half Michael McDonald's delayed pass to the on-rushing Niall Murray for a try under the posts was also impressive. Perhaps, however, these glimmers only served to highlight Connacht's lack of quality.

A second successive loss in the URC is all that matters in this busy run-in. This was Connacht's opportunity to effect a positive complexion on the league table, yet it is becoming apparent that their sputtering attacking displays are inhibited by the absence of Aki, Hansen and Bealham. They now face a difficult away trip to Pau at the weekend in the Challenge Cup, albeit with the returning influence of the inside centre and tighthead prop.

Benetton, to their credit, looked to control the tempo for large swathes of the game. Despite this, the Italian side failed to cross the white line for 73 minutes, the dearth spanning from the sixth minute to the 79th. In this period, Connacht faulted in creating clear-cut opportunities and scoreboard pressure, kicking aimlessly and making rudimentary errors along the way.

When Cian Prendergast crashed over in the 73rd minute, it seemed that the visitors would execute a bizarre smash-and-grab victory. But there was time enough for Benetton to hit back. This was a contest crying out for someone to reach out and wrestle control, hence, a hint of inevitability surrounded Izekor's winning score.

A recurring theme for the men from the west is their lack of incisiveness in attack. Connacht only registered five clean breaks, whilst Treviso managed 11. In contrast to this, Leinster created 19 clean breaks the day before against a strong Bulls side in their rampant display, playing with intent and a clear direction.

Connacht have shown this season that they can be a threat with ball in hand, yet an insufficiently clear attacking blueprint is hampering them presently.

Pau will provide Pete Wilkin's side with an opportunity to turn things around at the weekend. The caveat being that if Connacht fail to impose themselves offensively, the seventh placed side in the top 14 will punish their visitors.

Kick off in the south of France is at 5.30 pm on Sunday, April 7.

 

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