Lam fury over Connacht's 'worst display of season'
Brive 21 Connacht 18
There was no dressing this defeat up as a 'good effort' or 'unlucky result' as Pat Lam scolded his side for throwing away the opportunity of claiming a home quarter-final in the Challenge Cup.
Qualification for the knockout stages remains on a knife edge, but victory next Saturday afternoon over Russian side Enisei-STM at the Sportsground could still be enough. A bonus-point win will likely be needed, while Connacht also need Newcastle Falcons to defeat Brive at Kingston Park.
Lam was correct in saying the job should have been completed at Stade Amedee Domenech though. Captain John Muldoon crossed for his second try of the game two minutes from time, which squared the game at 18 points each with Jack Carty's conversion still to come. Carty missed the extras, before Connacht knocked on from the restart and then conceded a penalty from the scrum that followed, which Thomas Laranjeira kicked for the win. That was Laranjeira's seventh successful penalty from the 14 conceded in total - he missed another just before half-time - but Lam was not impressed with such a sub-par performance from his side.
"Absolutely disappointing, that was probably our worst performance this season. We didn't exit well, we didn't kick well, we made mistakes and off the back of mistakes then we were penalised.
"Ill-discipline gave them easy points. It was just a game that we threw away really so we're extremely disappointing.
"I am expecting a backlash from this performance because take the outcome out of it I am just not happy with the performance whatsoever," said an irate Lam.
And the day had started on such a positive note for the westerners. Before kick-off news filtered through that Siberian side Enisei-STM had defeated pool rivals Newcastle in Sochi, which all but ruled them out of contention.
And Connacht's own early efforts were top-notch too, when Rory Parata crossed for an excellent try after just 40 seconds following some great work from Muldoon and Danie Poolman.
But Connacht didn't score for the rest of the first half and instead trailed by 9-5 at the interval as Laranjeira began to punish the high concession of penalties.
Connacht fell further behind early in the second half, before Muldoon stretched to score his first try of the game, but even then they quickly fell behind following two more Laranjeira penalties.
With time running out Brive led 18-13, but Muldoon looked to have stolen the victory for Lam's visitors. Instead their challenge fell asunder in the dying minutes as they missed out on the extra points and then failed to close out the game - just like they did against Scarlets in the Pro12 last week.
"We missed the conversion. It just summed up, Mul twice put us right in the game," Lam added.
"But the problem, what was disappointing when we look at what Brive did and what we did, we completely handed that game.
"We're just extremely disappointed, it's the worst performance that we have had this season.
"We need to win (next week), but I just think we have just got to play better, that's the main priority whatever the outcome is.
"But the performance was way below what Connacht should be. Obviously an extremely disappointed changing room and so it should be. We are all not happy with that," he said.
Connacht will have to beat Enisei at the Sportsground next weekend to have any hopes of qualification and, with the tough and determined Siberians full of confidence after their morale-boosting second win of the competition, nothing can be taken as guaranteed.
Should Connacht top Pool 1, they will join the other four group winners in the last eight, but if they don't they need results in other pools to go their way to claim a best runner-up slot.
"We should have been home and hosed, and already qualified. Again we have only got ourselves to blame - that's the reason we have not (qualified)," Lam added.
Brive - R Sola; G Namy, T Laranjeira, C Tuatara (A Mignardi 55), B Masilevu; M Ugalde (N Bézy 74), JB Pejoine (T Iribaren 57); G Shvelidze (D Lavergne 52), T Acquier (G Ribes 52), K Buys (Y Tuncer 40); V Lebas, A Mela (W Steenkamp 71); W Whetton (P Luafutu 52), F Sanconnie (P Luafutu 27-38), S Koyamaibole.
Connacht - T O'Halloran; D Poolman, R Parata (P Robb 75), B Aki, M Healy; AJ MacGinty (J Carty 55), I Porter (C Blade 60); R Loughney (D Buckley 48), J Harris-Wright (T McCartney 29), R Ah You (F Bealham 70); U Dillane, A Muldowney; S O'Brien (E Masterson 59), J Connolly (G Naoupu 70), J Muldoon.
Ref - C Maxwell-Keys (RFU).