Italian side Aironi recorded a famous victory in their maiden season of European Cup competition on Saturday when they beat last season’s finalists Biarritz 28-27.
French full-back Julien Laharrague’s drop-goal two minutes from time gave Aironi, comprising elements of the old Viadana side and other teams in the Parma region, their triumph.
Biarritz stay top of the pool, but they still have to travel to an Ulster side which beat Bath 22-18.
Perpignan beat two-time champions Leicester 24-19 in Pool 5, although the Tigers stay top thanks to a bonus losing point, while -Racing-Metro gained a superb 24-21 away win over Saracens, which leaves the losers rooted to the bottom of the standings.
Biarritz did have the consolation of leaving Italy with two bonus points, for scoring four tries and losing by less than seven points, but will be kicking themselves for losing to Aironi, who hadn’t won in either Europe or the Celtic League this season.
Despite tries by Romain Terrain, Zimbabwean-born American winger Takudzwa Ngwenya, former England back Iain Balshaw and Charles Gimenez, the Italians wouldn’t give in.
A mix of the boot of Teo Tebaldi and tries from Kiwi fly-half James Marshall, a brilliant score by Giulio Toniolatti and one from Matteo Pratichatti, that put them in front for the first time, set up Laharrague’s killer blow.
In Pool One, wingers Paul Diggin and England star Chris Ashton scored tries to enable Northampton to maintain their 100 percent record as they beat Cardiff 23-15.
The Saints have now won three out of three, while Cardiff, beaten twice in their three group matches so far, have huge ground to make up to qualify for the quarter-finals.
Fly-half Stephen Myler kicked the other 13 Saints points with Dan Parks landing five penalties for Cardiff.
Racing-Metro’s maiden season in European club rugby’s premier competition took on a brighter hue with their away win over Saracens, who led early on thanks to a fine try by winger Noah Cato.
However, tries by Argentinian star Juan Martin Hernandez — on only his first start for the club since being injured in September — and veteran Fijian Sireli Bobo in each half proved the difference.
Hernandez — who spent nearly a whole year out after signing for the Sharks in South Africa with an injured back — benefited from a terrible misjudged pass back over his line by Brad Barritt, which was snaffled by the Pumas star who touched down.
Bobo — a European Cup finalist with Biarritz in 2006 where he scored a try, but ended up losing to Munster — had created the try with a delicate chip ahead.
His own score was one to remember as he brushed off several tackles to touch down in the corner.
The defeat prompted Saracens’ South African director of rugby Brendan Venter to carry out a mystifying post-match TV interview.
“It was disappointing, very disappointing, very, very disappointing,” he said.
“Sireli Bobo’s try. Brilliant, yes, absolutely brilliant. What went wrong? I will have to think about it very deeply, very, very deeply,” added the 40-year-old 1995 World Cup winner, who is to return to South Africa in January and resume his practice as a doctor.
Perpignan prevailed over Leicester in another thrilling encounter, which saw the French hosts score with another Laharrague — Julien’s brother Nicolas — proving a thorn in the visitors’ side.