Tuesday 25 October 2016

Irish rugby reacts to Connacht's 'sickening' defeat in France after scintillating display

Published 10/04/2016 | 10:59

Even as they've transformed from Pro 12 bottom feeders to swashbuckling table toppers over the last two seasons, Connacht still haven't been immune to the occasional stomach punch defeat.

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Last night's European Challenge Cup quarter-final in Grenoble was one of those games, the sort of encounter that leaves you doubled over and winded at the finish.

Off the back of a sublime attacking display by Matt Healy - who finished with two tries and two assists - Connacht led 19-3 and 29-13 before being edged out 33-32.

Even as they pushed for a winning score - only a drop goal was required - Connacht kept the ball in hand and almost made the breakthrough after a Fionn Carr burst, but the replacement lost his feet in the Grenoble 22 and the chance was gone.

Pat Lam's men were ultimately knocked out but by playing such magnificent rugby in the process, people left the match admiring them even more. Once again, outside centre Bundee Aki was immense, flinging laser-like miss passes across the field to hit runners in stride and carrying with menace over the gainline. The sooner he becomes Irish eligible the better.

But with a home semi-final at stake, Connacht will rue their big lost leads and their lack of control at key times - prop Denis Buckley's yellow card in the final 20 minutes alllowed Grenoble back into the game.

Regardless of the result, it was a gripping contest that had people glued to the TV - or the internet if you didn't have access to BT Sport.

And after the draining back-and-forth encounter that featured such high octane rugby, people were torn between devastation at Connacht's late loss and joy at how skillful they were in attack.

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