Connacht 28 - 15 Edinburgh: Late try denies even a bonus point

Mike Allen
Mike Allen
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Mike Allen’s late try looked to have given Edinburgh a losing bonus point at the Sportsground, but instead the home side ran in a fourth try late on to inflict defeat on Duncan Hodge in his first game in charge of Edinburgh.

Three days on from the departure of Alan Solomons from the hotseat, the big question was would Edinburgh experience the boost that usually comes with a new head coach.

After this 28-15 defeat in Galway, judgment will be reserved with the new coach barely in the job, but he will be keen to discover renewed vigour from those in the black and red shirts in the weeks to come.

Captain Grant Gilchrist also dotted down for Edinburgh in the first half, but they were second best throughout as Connacht picked up their first win of the season.

In the first minutes of the game the home side looked back to their best as they held on to the ball for more than two and a half minutes and ran through 17 phases along the way.

But it was their visitors that started the scoring on the night when flanker Jake Heenan was unlucky to be penalised at the breakdown in front of the post, which gave Jason Tovey and easy starter for a 3-0 lead in the sixth minute.

That score triggered the rain to lash down on the Sportsground, which meant handling was tricky and underfoot conditions were also far from perfect. But that didn’t stop Connacht’s flying winger Niyi Adeolokun from crossing for the game’s first try after ten minutes.

Connacht earned territory from a penalty won at an Edinburgh scrum on halfway, and after Connacht moved the ball from left to right, with Jack Carty to the fore, Adeolokun pounced when Chris Dean stepped out of the defensive line.

With the wind swirling Carty was on the mark with the conversion from the right for a 7-3 lead, and he found the target again eight minutes later following an offside infringement to stretch the lead to seven points.

After seeing three defeats in a row for his side, Pat Lam would have been delighted with their early efforts. There was a noticeable bite in their tackling, they hit rucks with real venom, while their excellent footwork before contact often saw them steal an extra couple of yards on the front foot.

But their eagerness to attack from deep proved their downfall in the 20th minute when Edinburgh drew level. A fine offload from Quinn Roux to John Muldoon almost stuck down the left wing, but Edinburgh turned over the ball, Damien Hoyland broke down the short side, which eventually saw Gilchrist stretch across the line to score.

Tovey’s conversion levelled matters, but that was short lived as Carty made it three from three from wide on the right.

And three minutes from the interval Connacht took a huge step towards their first win of the season with a stunning try, finished off by Roux. Tiernan O’Halloran launched the move when he threw a lineout to himself on halfway and broke up to the 22. Heenan also played a massive role with two excellent passes in the build-up, the second of which was a tip pass on to Roux to score in the right corner.

Irish international scrum-half Kieran Marmion limped off in the second minute of the second half, but his loss didn’t disrupt Connacht’s attacking play and four minutes later they ran in a third try.

Once again it was an offload in the tackle that sprung the Edinburgh cover – this time from Carty – but there was no stopping Cian Kelleher who hared in for his first Connacht try.

Allen scored his third try of the season nine minutes from time, but Tovey’s conversion hit the post, and moments later Robb ran in a deserved try to clinch the bonus point for the home side.

Scorers

Connacht: Tries: N Adeolokun, Q Roux, C Kelleher, P Robb. Con J Carty: Pens: J Carty 2

Edinburgh: Tries: G Gilchrist, M Allen. Con: J Tovey. Pen: J Tovey

Connacht: T O’Halloran; N Adeolokun (S O’Leary 37-41, blood), B Aki (S O’Leary 75), P Robb, M Healy (C Kelleher 4); J Carty, K Marmion (C Blade 42); D Buckley (R Loughney 68), T McCartney (D Heffernan 72), C Carey (F Bealham 47); Q Roux, U Dillane (L Stevenson 75); E McKeon (J Connolly 59), J Heenan, J Muldoon

Edinburgh: G Bryce; D Hoyland, C Dean, S Rasolea, M Allen; J Tovey (B Kinghorn 80), S Kennedy (S Hidalgo-Clyne 63); R Sutherland (A Dell 63), R Ford (S McInally 59), WP Nel; B Toolis, G Gilchrist (L Carmichael 79); M Bradbury, J Hardie, C Du Preez (H Watson 21-28, blood & 59)

Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)