Connacht Eagles’ debut in the British & Irish Cup ended in a gut-wrenching defeat as Newport prevailed by four points at Rodney Parade on Saturday.
The Welsh club produced the match-winning score in the 80th minute as centre Will Richards broke through and the Eagles did well to hold on for a losing bonus point as Newport replacement Alan Awcock's 50-metre burst in injury-time almost led to another home try.
It was a strong finish from the Black and Ambers, but the Connacht men were well in the hunt at the end of a well-contested first half and held a narrow lead late on.
Nigel Carolan's side looked dangerous on the counter attack with the back-three of Shane Layden, James Loxton and Matt Healy exploiting space on a number of occasions. The home defence held out though.
Centre Tadhg Leader landed two penalties, the second on the cusp of half-time as Newport took a 10-6 advantage into the break.
The decisive score for the hosts came in the 35th minute when their captain Craig Attwell forced his way over after a concerted spell of forward pressure. The home pack included former Munster prop Tim Ryan.
Leader fired over a 48th minute to edge the Eagles ever closer and the westerners nipped ahead by the hour mark.
A blindside break caught Newport on the hop and the in-form Healy finished off a fine long range attack for the visitors' only try, hacking the ball on three times in the process.
The conversion was missed and five minutes later Hancock, who suffered a couple of missed kicks in the first 40 minutes, was back on target with an important three-pointer for Newport.
The Connacht pack, marshalled by captain Eoghan Grace, got through an amount of work as they protected that 14-13 lead. But Newport's persistence paid off when Richards, despite being tackled close to the line, scrambled over for his try.
There was further drama in injury-time as Connacht tried to respond and Newport prop Nathan Williams was sin-binned close to the final whistle.
Time ran out on the gallant Eagles though and they will hope to bounce back at Dubarry Park next Friday when they host Newcastle Falcons (kick-off 7.45pm).
Referee: Greg Macdonald (England)