Match report: Edinburgh humbled by Connacht

Edinburgh's Mike Coman is blocked by Dave McSharry and Eoin McKeon. Pic: SNS/SRU
Edinburgh's Mike Coman is blocked by Dave McSharry and Eoin McKeon. Pic: SNS/SRU
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New hybrid pitch at BT Murrayfield, same miserable failings from its Edinburgh Rugby occupants, who bit the dust spectacularly in a 14-13 Guinness Pro 12 reversal at the hands of humble Connacht.

Edinburgh could have no complaints in front of a crowd of 3777 that had been bettered for an opening home match only three times in 14 years.

Undermining last night’s lacklustre effort were severe scrummaging problems, highlighted by being unable to secure possession from the first seven set-pieces which ended either in penalties, free kicks or, in one case, a rare heel against the head.

Additionally, indiscipline led to the winning try from Willie Faloon three minutes from the end as yet another penalty concession was exploited as Connacht mauled their way over from a line-out.

Faloon had earlier spent time in the sin-bin, but even that failed to encourage Edinburgh, who picked up a yellow card themselves as Willem Nel had to temporarily withdraw for the second successive week.

Last week’s win at Munster may be a false dawn, but by half time in this encounter, Edinburgh were 13-6 ahead thanks to a Cornell du Preez try.

Coach Alan Solomons wasn’t fooled, though, as it appeared John Andress had been deemed partly culpable for the scrum woes as he was subbed for Nel.

Almost immediately Nel found himself receiving a yellow card for an indiscretion at a scrum and any hopes Edinburgh had of pulling clear were checked by a third penalty from Darragh Leader.

Earlier, Leader had struck a penalty in between successful kicks from Tom Heathcote to keep the visitors in touch, but at the start Edinburgh looked so promising.

Whenever Connacht kicked off, too, there was Du Preez waiting to run the ball back as Edinburgh continued to look busy and purposeful.

Strauss instigated one attack with a thumping tackle to gain a turnover and soon Jack Cuthbert was chipping ahead for Nick McLennan, only for the ball to run through in-goal.

On the opposite flank, Sam Beard got the chance to stretch his legs before being hauled down just short.

Early vigour was evaporating though and there was a let-off when Cuthbert knocked a pass from McLennan back into his 22, conceding a five-metre scrum. Fortunately, Sean Kennedy was alert to a kick in behind the defence under Edinburgh’s posts.

By the half-hour mark, Edinburgh badly needed to regain the initiative and the hosts were grateful for three Connacht knock-ons in the red zone.

It was no more than Connacht deserved, in fact, when Leader punished a scrum collapse with an equalising penalty after 37 minutes.

That score had the effect of smelling salts as Edinburgh roused themselves, with Du Preez taking a long pass from Beard to cross in the corner. Heathcote converted from the touchline to put Edinburgh 13-6 ahead at the break.

After Heathcote had lost his 100 per cent goal-kicking record with a penalty miss, Edinburgh’s scrum clicked, with a heel against the head enabling Beard to briefly threaten.

Lock Anton Bresler came on for a debut, but before he could settle Edinburgh had Nel yellow-carded for the second successive week, a scrum offence compounded by a penalty from Leader.

Within minutes the sides were evened-up when Falloon retired to the bin for stamping and then, from the base of a scrum, Du Preez picked up and looked to have forced his way over, only for the video official to show he had been held short.

When Edinburgh came again, further indiscipline cost ground and the best the hosts could hope for was winning ugly. Some chance.

It might have been expected that Edinburgh would be more careful in their own territory, but with five minutes remaining Connacht put a penalty against Hidalgo-Clyne for not releasing in the tackle into corner to examine the home defence.

It proved a masterstroke as Connacht mauled their way over through Faloon and even though Jack Carty missed the conversion, Edinburgh were behind for the first time with three minutes remaining and there was to be no way back.

Scorers:

Edinburgh: Try – Du Preez. Conversion – Heathcote. Penalties – Heathcote (2).

Connacht: Try – Falloon. Penalties – Leader (3).

Edinburgh: Cuthbert (Dominguez 53); Beard (Hart 67), Burleigh, Strauss, McLennan, Kennedy (Hidalgo-Clyne 52); Dickinson, Ford, (Hilterbrand 65), Andress (Nel 40), McKenzie (Bresler 52), Atkins, Leonardi (Coman 59), Du Preez, Watson (Andress 60-65). 
Unused sub: Sutherland.

Connacht: Leader (Ronaldson 69); Adeolokun, Henshaw, McSharry, Poolman (Carr 53), Carty, Marmion; Buckley, Heffernan (Henry 40), White (Ah You 73), Kearney (Muldowney 56), Roux, Muldoon, McKeon (Naoupo 53), Faloon.

Unused subs: Bealham, Porter.

Referee: G Conway (Irish RU).

Attendance: 3777.