Frustrated Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons was left ruing two errors after seeing his side suffer a 28-23 loss against current leaders Connacht in last night’s Guinness Pro12 encounter at Murrayfield.
Solomons pointed to the visitors’ first and third touchdowns as being the key to the outcome, saying: “Two defensive lapses cost us 14 points and probably the game.
“First of all give Connacht credit because they played very well but every time we got on to attack we turned over ball, particularly at the breakdown, invariably a penalty. We spoke about the breakdown at half time. We got it right in that second half. I thought it was a great comeback and really disappointing that we had those two lapses.”
After a dismal first half effort in which they were totally outplayed, the Capital side produced a stirring effort in the second period and with 12 minutes left to play looked set to snatch an unlikely victory.
Edinburgh were bolstered by the release from the Scotland squad of Matt Scott, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Rory Sutherland as they attempted to derail the table-topping Irish outfit. However, while the trio were prominent throughout, the Edinburgh player who caught the eye was winger Damien Hoyland who was rewarded for his aggressive running with one of Edinburgh’s three tries. And it proved to be a particularly frustrating night for Scott, whose involvement was limited to only 20 minutes before he was forced off with an arm injury.
The visitors raced from the blocks and had the first scoring opportunity with a penalty after four minutes but the kick by Craig Ronaldson rattled back off the post. Edinburgh survived a spell on defensive chores but failed to pose any real attacking threat.
The Irishmen are the league’s leading tryscorers and the enterprise they showed in and around the home 22 showed why. Such was Connacht’s dominance that the only surprise was that there were 21 minutes on the clock when they eventually made the breakthrough. Hooker Tom McCartney made the initial dent and flipped the ball to Bundee Aki who fed AJ MacGinty, and the American international crashed over the line. Ronaldson added the conversion.
Edinburgh’s woes mounted when Scott left the field. The visitors continued to apply incessant pressure and, after several attacks were repelled, they again crossed the whitewash when Danie Poolman raced over. However, after referring it to the television match official, the referee decided that Blair Kinghorn had managed to tackle the Connacht winger into touch.
Play was called back for an earlier offence by Anton Bresler, who was deemed to have pulled down a maul. The Edinburgh lock was despatched to the sin bin and Connacht extracted full value from their numerical advantage when they opted for the scrum and drove the hosts backwards, creating a platform for Jake Heenan to dive over for a try which Ronaldson again converted.
The Capital men made their first sortie into the Connacht 22 with a run from Damien Hoyland after 35 minutes. That came to nothing but proved to be the catalyst for a strong finish. Hamish Watson powered down the flank, a high tackle by Tiernan O’Halloran earned the Connacht man ten minutes on the side lines and yielded a penalty which Hidalgo-Clyne missed.
Having finished the half strongly, the hosts resumed in a similar vein and within three minutes had clawed back five points. Hoyland, who had made another piercing run moments earlier, threw out a looping pass to Chris Dean who plunged over at the corner for an unconverted try.
But, having hauled themselves back into the contest, Edinburgh allowed the Irishmen to extend their lead when Bundee Aki took a pass inside the home 22 and set off in a speculative run that took him over the line untouched. Ronaldson stroked over the conversion.
Chastened by that error, the hosts stepped up the pace and produced two tries in less than ten minutes. The first came when Blair Kinghorn fed Hoyland who sprinted in at the corner. Hidalgo-Clyne banged over the conversion and that nine-point deficit shrunk to four when the kicker turned creator to send Cornell Du Preez in at the corner before hitting the bar with his conversion attempt.
However, he trimmed the deficit to one point when he slotted a penalty that gave the hosts some hope.
Once again, Connacht exhibited their character, stretching clear once more when Eoin McKeon forced his way over for the bonus-point score and MacGinty converted.
That left Edinburgh seven minutes to salvage something and they secured a losing bonus point when Hidalgo-Clyne banged over a late penalty.
Edinburgh: Tries: Dean, Hoyland, Du Preez. Conv: Hidalgo Clyne. Pen: Hidalgo Clyne (2).
Connacht: Tries: MacGinty, Heenan, Aki, McKeon. Conv: Ronaldson (3), MacGinty.
Edinburgh: Kinghorn, Hoyland, Dean, Scott, Brown, Burleigh, Hidalgo-Clyne, Sutherland, Cochrane, Andress, Bresler, B. Toolis, Ritchie, Watson, Du Preez. Subs: Beard for Scott (23), Dell for Sutherland (48), Berghan for Andress (41), A. Toolis for Bresler (67). Not Used: Turner, Bradbury, Kennedy, Fife.
Connacht: O’Halloran, Poolman, Aki, Ronaldson, Healy, MacGinty, Marmion, Buckley, McCartney, White, Roux, Muldowney, O’Brien, Heenan, Muldoon, Ah You. Subs: Blade for Marmion (61), Heffernan for McCartney (74), Ah You for White (41), Qualter for Roux (60), McKeon for O’Brien (68), Bealham for Ah You (67). Not Used: Robb, Carr.