London Irish’s hopes of a quarter final berth took a huge setback on Saturday afternoon as they were defeated 18-28 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. London Irish 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 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 offensive. Darren Allinson’s quickly taken penalty from a scrum caught Grenoble unaware and they failed to retreat the required 10m 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. 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 fightback was not enough and Irish were left to rue missed opportunities particularly just before the break when Grenoble were without their sin binned captain.
The Exiles travel to France next weekend taking on Agen in the final game in the pool.