An eventful season for Connacht produced a suitably dramatic conclusion to their final home game of the Pro 12 campaign as they staged a remarkable rally to snatch victory at the end.
Connacht seemed destined for a rather ignominious defeat when they trailed by seven points with three minutes left on the clock at the Sportsground last evening.
Aironi, who will be disbanded in a couple of weeks, had never won an away match but two of their five home wins were against Connacht and they were the better side for long periods last evening.
In other days Connacht might have folded in the closing minutes, but there was an expectation among the home following of over 5,000 that they would come good in the end.
And they did, in a truly dramatic finish. Aironi's composure was rattled six minutes from time when replacement prop Luca Redolfini was binned for killing the ball close to his own line.
The Italians survived that onslaught, but Connacht upped the intensity in the closing stages and Rodney Ah You managed to dive over close to the posts three minutes from time, with Miah Nikora steering the conversion between the posts to level the game.
But there was more drama to follow when Aironi hooker Fabio Ongaro was penalised for popping up in a scrum, giving Matthew Jarvis the chance to grab an unlikely win from inside his own half.
And the Welsh native, a second-half replacement for skipper Gavin Duffy, kept his nerve to land the monster kick from 55 metres with the wind at his back to send the crowd into raptures.
It was cruel on an Aironi side who had punished Connacht's opening half lethargy and deservedly led 16-3 at the interval.
The Italians hit the front with Italian international Luciano Orquera landing a 13th minutes drop goal.
Italian international Luciano Orquera landed a 13th-minute drop goal which Nikora cancelled on a rare Connacht attack with a penalty. But it was Aironi, with some clever kicking from Orquera, who mounted the attacks and South African-born lock Quintin Geldenhuys squeezed over after the centres Sinoti Sinoti and Matteo Pratichetti had carved the opening through a sleepy defence.
Orquera added the conversion from the left wing and he also landed two penalties before the break to leave Connacht with an uphill battle in the second half. Nikora pulled back a couple of penalties in the final quarter, but it looked like they were heading for defeat only to stage the most remarkable of late rallies.
Scorers -- Connacht: R Ah You try, M Nikora 3 pens, 2 cons, M Jarvis pen.
Aironi: Q Geldenhuys try, L Orquera 2 pens,d-g, con.
Connacht: G Duffy (M Jarvis 67); T O'Halloran, K Tonetti, H Fa'afili, F Vainikolo (E Griffin 28); M Nikora, F Murphy (P O'Donohoe 69); D Buckley, E Reynecke (A Flavin h-t), R Loughney (R Ah You, 56); M Swift (J O'Connor 48), M McCarthy (M Kearney 66); J Muldoon, R Ofisa, G Naoupu.
Aironi: T Tebaldi; G Toniolatti, S Sinoti, M Pratichetti, G Venditti; L Orquera (N Oliver 71), T Keats; M Aguero, F Ongaro, L Romano (L Redolfini 62); Q Geldenhuys (J Furno, 71), M Bortolami; N Cattina (L Romano 79), S Favaro, J Sole (N Williams, 71).
Referee: I Davies (Wales).
Sunday Indo Sport