Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons was seething with Italian referee Claudio Blessano after his side’s hopes of a rare win on Irish soil were blown away with a 12-2 penalty count against them.
Edinburgh have not won away from home all season and that never really looked like changing in Galway on Saturday with the wastefulness of the home side off the tee keeping the game tight to the end.
Edinburgh were unable to snatch a late winner and never looked like building the phases to do so, but Solomons clearly felt Italian referee Blessano did them few favours.
“He [Blessano] had a major influence – you look at the penalty count. I’m going to have a look at the tape, but we certainly got the short end of the stick.”
Edinburgh got a great start against the wind when Nick De Luca broke and a couple of surges later saw Roddy Grant get over for his first try of this campaign. South African Carl Bezuidenhout, starting his first game, landed the difficult conversion from the left to make it 7-0 for the visitors.
Craig Ronaldson converted his first penalty after 21 minutes for Connacht, but then proceeded to miss the next three, which left Edinburgh 7-3 to the good having played against the wind.
“The wind dropped in the second half which made a difference, but I’ve got to have a look at the try that Jack Cuthbert scored in the left hand-corner at the start of the second half, which was a key moment in the game, which was disallowed due to obstruction,” continued Solomons, “and I think we weren’t allowed to build on the first half. The overall penalty count was 12 against us and two for us, which is massive in a professional game.”
Inevitably, given those statistics, there was going to be a binning and Edinburgh No.8 Cornell Du Preez was singled out five minutes after the restart.
Connacht needed no further invitation to go for the jugular and 36-year-old lock Michael Swift got over from a lineout maul. Cuthbert was whistled back on a rare Edinburgh attack and while former Scottish out-half Dan Parks came on to extend Connacht’s lead, the game remained alive for Edinburgh right to the death.
However, they never looked like securing what would be only their second win in Ireland since 2009, with Solomons lamenting the lack of quality in their finishing. “Unfortunately when we got up there we made mistakes and our error count was too high. Well done to Connacht, but it’s a game we should and could have won.”
Scottish centre De Luca was relieved to get 80 minutes under his belt as he continues his return from an eye injury, but admitted it was a frustrating encounter. “For an outside back very frustrating. I feel Connacht deserved the win. The penalty count was poor, but also the individual errors, the timing of our lines and the set piece was a bit dodgy,” he said.
Edinburgh: Cuthbert; Fife, De Luca, Strauss, Brown; Bezuidenhout (Leonard 71), Hart; Blaauw, Hilterbrand (Ford 36), Nel; Gilchrist, Van der Westhuizen (Atkins 64); Coman (Leonardi 72), Grant, Du Preez.