Connacht 22 Worcester 21
There wasn't much to shout about in terms of style and finesse, but this match was full of tension and excitement as both teams fought hard to put one foot into the quarterfinals of the second tier of European competition.
The match was scrappy and ill-discliplined throughout as both Connacht and Worcester were forced to spend major parts of the match with just 14 men.
French referee Eric Darriere brandished five yellow cards, three to the Warriors and two to the Irish side. He was consistent throughout, though, while neither side can blame the officials for what was largely a stop-start affair from start to finish.
The Warriors dominated possession in the first half and they should have built a convincing lead early on, if they hadn't repeatedly made silly mistakes and given away numerous unnecessary penalties within the opposition's half.
The back three, including the powerful and promising young wing Uche Odouza, saw little of the ball in the opening quarter of play as fly-halfs Shane Drahm and David Slemen swapped penalties before hooker Chris Fortey powered over for the game's first try following a line-out and drive on 22 minutes. Drahm added the conversion to give the Warriors a 10-3 lead.
The visitors should have upped the pressure and piled on the points while Connacht's heads were down, but when Drahm was sent to the sin-bin, the Irishmen punished Wrcester with a second Slemen penalty and a try from Conor McPhillips to lead 11-10 at the half-time break.
The sides swapped penalties again early on in the second half before the Warriors finally upped the pressure and full-back Thinus Delport crossed the line on 56 minutes to give them a one-point lead.
Drahm missed the conversion but added a penalty just minutes later and the visitors were in sight of a second victory over the Irish side in as many weeks.
Worcester couldn't get out of the opposition's 22 with points, though, so when back row Kai Horstmann was sinbinned five minutes from time, Connacht sensed that the victory which would keep them in touch in the competition was within their reach.
Flanker Matt Lacey touched down for the crucial try in the corner one minute from time and, although Paul Warwick missed the conversion, they hung on for the win.
Warriors head coach Anthony Eddy said his side had only themselves to blame for not securing a victory. "We played well enough to win, but when you have three sin-binnings and make numerous silly mistakes, then you're not going to win close games like this," he said.
"We felt the referee was fair and consistent, but we had a bad day at the office. We're trying to liven up our attack a bit and although 50 per cent of our play came off, 50 per cent didn't.
"We now have to go to Montpellier and secure a win and put ourselves in a good position. We want to progress through to the knockout stages so we've now got to take a team to Montpellier who can secure victory and follow that up with a home win against Catania.
"It's a great competition and we're really enjoying the rugby in this tournament, it's one of our main priorities this season," he said.
Worcester still lead their group by one point with two matches remaining but they came away from The Sports-ground in Galway with just the one bonus point to show for their efforts.
They now face the difficult task of travelling to Montpellier on January 21 while Connacht have the slightly easier prospect of facing the French side at home. The five pool winners, plus the three runners-up with the best records, will go through to the quarter-finals and knockout stages. ..SUPL: