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Published: 21:46 | 9/4/16

Brave Connacht edged out by Grenoble

Late drop goal claims victory for French side

Grenoble edged out a brave Connacht side by 33-32 after a thrilling European Challenge Cup quarter-final clash at Stade Lesdiguieres.

First half tries from winger Niyi Adeolokun (2) and centre Robbie Henshaw added to two conversions from Shane O'Leary looked to have set the Irish side on their way to victory, with Matt Healy adding a fourth five-pointer and O'Leary a penalty early in the second period.

But Grenoble responded well and, after Jonathan Wisniewski's first half haul of a try, a conversion and three penalties, he added the extras to tries from Lucas Dupont and Mahamadou Diaby after the break before landing a drop goal to claim victory four minutes from time after substitute John Cooney had momentarily put Connacht back in front.

It was heartbreak for Pat Lam's side who got off to a great start with Adeolokun capitalising on a good break out from defence by Matt Healy and Bundi Aki to touch down after just 11 minutes.

O'Leary converted to put the Irish province 7-0 ahead, but Grenoble out-half Jonathan Wisniewski finally got the home side on the board with a penalty on 19 minutes.

Henshaw collected an inch-perfect O'Leary kick to cross for Connacht's second try shortly afterwards.

The number ten was off target with the conversion attempt but made amends with Adeolokun's second try just before the half hour mark.

Connacht looked to be in complete control but Grenoble, who are trained by former Connacht, Leinster and Ireland hooker Bernard Jackman, hit back as Wisniewski crossed under the posts and quickly added the extras to make it 19-10 to the visitors after 34 minutes.

The out-half was on target again with two late penalties to leave just three points between the teams at 19-16 at the break.

Healy added a superb fourth try for the visitors two minutes after the restart, with O'Leary again converting.

He then added a penalty from range on 54 minutes after the French side were penalised at the scrum as Connacht looked to pull away at 29-16.

But Grenoble responded once again and, after prop Denis Buckley was yellow-carded for consistent infringements at the breakdown following a sustained spell of pressure close to the Connacht line, the home side had their second try through winger Dupont.

Wisniewski split the posts once again with the conversion attempt to leave six points between the sides at 29-23 with 17 minutes left to play.

Diaby crossed for Grenoble's third try, with Wisniewski again converting, to put the Top 14 ahead for the first time in the match at 30-29 with nine minutes remaining.

But Connacht reclaimed the lead with a penalty from substitute Cooney shortly afterwards before Wisniewski replied with a drop goal for Grenoble four minutes from the end to restore the French club's advantage.

Connacht pressed hard for an opening as the clock ran down but they couldn't engineer a point-scoring opportunity and, despite a titanic effort, are left to concentrate on the PRO12 for the remainder of the season.

By: Kieran O'Daly

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