Despite registering a try bonus point – thanks to tries from Tiernan O’Halloran(2), Cian Prendergast and Kieran Marmion, all of which were converted by Kieran Marmion – it was the English Premiership leaders, who trailed 28-10 midway through the second half, who took the victory in a pulsating clash.
Joe Heyes, Kini Murimurivalu(2), Charlie Clare, and Hosea Saumaki all crossed for the visitors, with Freddie Burns also notching two conversions.
Connacht looked to start the game with typical attacking intent, but it was the English Premiership table-toppers who took the lead after scarcely two minutes.
A cleverly worked line-out routine saw Leicester crash over through Joe Heyes.
After turning down two kickable penalties, the away team were rewarded for their ambition when the tight-head prop went over the line from a short distance. The conversion was wide, so the away team lead 5-0.
The English team doubled their try count in what was proving to be a profitable opening ten minutes when Kini Murimurivalu – after a scrum just outside the Connacht 22 gave them field position – dove over in the corner. The conversion hit the upright but the away team doubled their lead to 10-0.
Connacht – with their line out an effective weapon – began to grow into the game thereafter and this bore try-scoring fruit in an extremely entertaining opening seventeen minutes.
A powerful rolling maul brought the hosts close to the line and they then elected to put the ball through the hands of the backs. Kieran Marmion found Carty and the Roscommon native passed to Matt Healy who – unselfishly – fed O’Halloran the try-scoring pass. Carty added the extras and the hosts trailed by three at 7-10.
With their tails up, the driving maul was a tool the home team looked to use extensively and their confidence in the set-piece was justified when they used it as a source of crossing the whitewash for the second time in the half.
Once again, Leicester did well to stop the initial surge but they had no answer to Connacht working it wide through the backs and Bundee Aki’s pass found Prendergast and – showing great strength – the blindside muscled his way over the line. Carty added the extras and the Westerners lead 14-10 at the half-hour mark.
The Tigers tried to respond in kind in the remaining minutes of the first half, but all of their efforts were met with the same Connacht defensive resistance – where Conor Oliver and Niall Murray were particularly impressive – and the hosts went into the interval leading 14-10.
Connacht started the second half in menacing, attacking fashion and they scored two tries – both from attacking lineouts – in the opening ten minutes of the second period. Such was the pressure and the spate of penalties awarded in the home team’s favour, the English team were also reduced to 14 after Tommy Reffell was yellow carded.
First, Marmion – showing great instincts – quickly nipped in for a score and then O’Halloran, with his second try of the afternoon, was the benefactor of a brilliant move, starting from the line out, that included offloads from John Porch and Mattew Burke, and pirouetted over in the corner. Carty converted both and the hosts lead 28-10.
The Tigers worked their way back into proceedings soon after, however, when Murimurivalu – their most impressive player all afternoon – showed great pace to touch down for a converted try which reduced the deficit to 28-17.
The tide of momentum was with the away team as we reached the final ten minutes and they scored their fourth try when Charlie Clare was at hand to touch down at the base of a maul. The conversion was good and the Westerners lead stood at four points; 28-24.
The visitors would have the last say when replacement Hosea Saumaki dove over in the corner to give the Tigers the win – 29-28 – with the last play of the game.
15: Tiernan O’Halloran
14: John Porch
13: Sammy Arnold
12: Bundee Aki
11: Matt Healy
10: Jack Carty ©
9: Kieran Marmion
8: Jarrad Butler
7: Conor Oliver
6: Cian Prendergast
5: Niall Murray
4: Oisin Dowling
3: Finlay Bealham
2: Shane Delahunt
1: Matthew Burke