LONDON IRISH 18
FC GRENOBLE 28
LONDON Irish’s hopes of a Challenge Cup quarter-final spot took a huge setback on Sunday as they were defeated 28-18 by French Top 14 side FC Grenoble.
The visitors out-scored Tom Coventry’s side three tries to two to go top of the group. The Exiles did stage a late fight back, but it was too little too late.
Tom Coventry made 11 changes to the side that beat Newcastle last week, with only 4 survivors in the starting XV, for this crucial European match against Grenoble.
The Exiles took an early lead after Tom Cruse’s early charge down forced Grenoble to concede a penalty which Geraghty converted.
However, Grenoble replied shortly afterwards to level the scores and further Irish indiscipline allowed Jonathan Wisniewski to kick his side into the lead. Another Geraghty penalty meant that the two sides were once again even at 6-6.
Grenoble then scored the first try of the game after a powerful driving maul from the forwards sucked in the Irish defenders, allowing Armand Batlle to slide over in the corner.
Although Wisniewski failed to convert, Grenoble extended their lead soon after when centre Nigel Hunt barrelled over from short range.
Despite having a sustained amount of possession and territory, London Irish unfortunately couldn’t break through the Grenoble defence, which stood strong even after their captain, Ben Hand, was sin-binned for repeated offences and the arrival of half-time halted the Exiles’ advances. Grenoble led 6-21 at the break.
Almost immediately after Hand returned to the fray, an overthrown lineout gifted Grenoble their third try and a seemingly unassailable lead. However, Irish soaked up repeated Grenoble attacks to deny them a try bonus point and then in the last five minutes launched their own attacks.
Darren Allinson’s quickly-taken penalty from a scrum caught Grenoble unaware and they failed to retreat the required 10 metres, resulting in another penalty, which Geraghty kicked to the corner.
A knock-on looked to have ended the attack but Irish won the scrum against the head before Lewington scampered around the outside of the Grenoble defence and passed inside to Dom Waldouck, who held off the attentions of two Grenoble players to score. Geraghty converted to take the Exiles within 15 points of their opponents.
Minutes later, Lewington was in for a try of his own. After stretching the Grenoble defence across the pitch, the Exiles engineered enough space for Lewington to score in the corner making the final score 18-28.
A late, spirited fightback was ultimately not enough and Irish were left to rue missed opportunities, particularly just before the break when Grenoble were without their sin-binned captain.
London Irish travel to France next weekend where they take on Agen in the final game in the pool.
GAME AT A GLANCE
Score sequence (London Irish first): 3-0, 3-3, 3-6, 6-6, 6-11, 6-14, 6-21, 6-28, 13-28, 18-28
Scorers: Grenoble: Penalties: Wisniewski (7, 11, 24); Tries: Batlle (18), Hunt (27), Macleod (44); Conversions: Wisniewski (2); London Irish: Penalties: Geraghty (2, 15); Tries: Waldouck (74), Lewington (79); Conversions: Geraghty
London Irish: 15. Topsy Ojo; 14.Alex Lewington; 13.Fergus Mulchrone; 12. Theo Brophy Clews (rep: Dom Waldouck, 55); 11. Tom Fowlie; 10. Shane Geraghty; 9. Scott Steele (rep: Darren Allinson, 11); 1. Tom Smallbone (rep: Tom Court, 70); 2. Tom Cruse (rep: Jimmy Stevens, 51); 3. Halani Aulika (rep: Leo Halavatau, 63); 4. Ollie Curry; 5. Jebb Sinclair (rep: David Sisi, 40); 6. Tom Guest; 7. Joe Trayfoot (rep: Conor Gilsenan, 60_; 8. Luke Narraway (Captain)
Replacements: 16. Jimmy Stevens; 17. Tom Court; 18. Leo Halavatau; 19. Conor Gilsenan; 20. David Sisi; 21. Darren Allinson; 22. Johnny Williams; 23. Dom Waldouck
Grenoble: 15. Gio Aplon; 14. Lucas Dupont (rep: Daniel Killioni, 56); 13.Chris Farrell; 12. Nigel Hunt; 11. Armand Batlle;10. Jonathan Wisniewski (rep: Clement Gelin, 70); 9. Charl McLeod (rep: Lillian Saseras, 70); 1. Sona Taumalolo (rep: Denis Coulson, 60); 2. Arnaud Heguy; 3. Dayna Edwards (rep: Walter Desmaison, 55); 4, Ben Hand (Captain); 5. Peter Kimlin (rep: Matias Marie, 70); 6. Henry Vanderglas; 7. Mahamadou Diaby; 8. Rory Grice (rep: Steven Stephano, 55)
Replacements: 16. Loick Jammes; 17. Denis Coulson; 18. Walter Desmaison; 19. Mathias Marie; 20. Steven Setephano; 21. Lilian Saseras; 22. Clement Gelin; 23. Daniel Kilioni
Referee: Marius Mitrea
Attendance: 3, 684
We gave out some soft tries early on in the game and there were some crucial opportunities for us to score, which we didn’t take. The competition has probably slipped away. We have to go to Agen and score a lot of tries and hopefully things will work out mathematically, but the chances are pretty slim. We needed to be better and we were, so we got what we deserved, I suppose, which is certainly disappointing.
Tom Coventry, London Irish head coach