The boot of Greig Laidlaw set a new Edinburgh Rugby penalty record with eight successful kicks out of nine, but it failed to lift the team to a third successive Rabo Direct Pro 12 league win when they went down 32-24 against Connacht in front of a 4171 at Murrayfield crowd last night.
Scorers: Edinburgh: Penalties – Laidlaw (8); Connacht: Tries – Kearney, Henshaw. Conversions – Parks (2) Penalties – Parks (4), Duffy. Drop goal – Parks.
The Edinburgh skipper overtook the previous record jointly held by Chris Paterson and Harry Leonard and for long enough it looked as though Laidlaw’s accuracy has rarely been of greater value to Edinburgh.
However, a 77th minute try by full back Robbie Henshaw, converted by Dan Parks, finally took the visitors clear in a match where the lead frequently changed hands and to rub salt in the wounds, a penalty by Parks with the final kick denied Edinburgh even a losing bonus point.
It was hard to argue, too, that Connacht were not worthy of the success, having scored a first-half try when winger Gavin Duffy burst from a ruck and turned a pass inside to the supporting Mick Kearney.
That was a real sucker blow as until, then Edinburgh had been coasting, helped by a dominant scrum and the rampaging skills of No 8 Netani Talei.
Fijian Talei may be leaving at the end of the season for Dragons, but, clearly, he is intent on going out with a bang.
Highlight of the early exchanges came when he got up in support of Tim Visser, who had got over to his opposite wing and the pair executed the cutest of scissors moves.
Similarly Ben Atiga, out of sorts for much of the campaign, continued to catch the eye in staking claims for a contract extension. However, lack of clinical finishing was Edinburgh’s undoing and the defeat may well have holed interim coaching pair Stevie Scott and Duncan Hodge below the water line as only an unbeaten run-in was likely to be enough to earn them the nod on a permanent basis.
Looking on was new managing director David Davies and he saw Edinburgh completely fail to exploit two sin binnings for Connacht.
In the 30th minute Parks was deemed by the rookie Welsh ref – it was his first match at this level – to have deliberately knocked on while the second half saw prop Ronan Loughney given temporary marching orders for a technical offence.
Edinburgh huffed and puffed and, to be fair, Lee Jones almost battled over on the end of an improvised pass from Talei seconds before Visser, on the opposite wing, was held five metres out.
That was as close as Edinburgh came to notching a try and fans were drifting away before the end.
Edinburgh fell behind in only three minutes when Parks opened with a penalty which was equalised three minutes later by Laidlaw. With the injured Greig Tonks being replaced at full back by Tom Brown the Edinburgh skipper made it 12-3 by the 28th minute.
Alas, Kearney’s try saw the gap cut to a couple of points and a further penalty exchange this time involving Duffy with Parks in the bin saw the Scots retire 15-13 ahead.
Parks opened the second half as he did the first and soon made it 19-15 for the Galwaymen. Even if Laidlaw did restore the home lead Parks again had an answer with a snap drop goal.
Again Laidlaw replied with what seemed the killer blow, but that trenchant late Connacht saw Parks take his individual total to 19 points.
All through the build up Edinburgh had spoken of the threat posed by the ex-Scotland stand off, but it seemed they failed to heed their own warnings and the price for some could be a high one.
There are only two games left away to Treviso and at home to Dragons.
Both are eminently winnable, but neither is a sufficiently big scalp to ensure supporters enter the summer with a more upbeat feeling and a season of misery looks set to continue to the end.
Edinburgh: Tonks, Jones, Scott, Atiga, T Visser, Francis, Laidlaw, captain, Jacobsen, Ford, Cross, Gilchrist, Cox, McInally, Talei, Watson. Subs: Lawrie, Hislop, Yapp, Parker, McAlpine, Kennedy, Leonard, Brown,
Connacht: Henshaw, Poolman, Griffin, Murphy, Duffy, captain, Parks, Marmion, Wilkinson, Flavin, Loughney, Swift, McCarthy, Kearney, Naoupu. Subs: Reynecke, Ah You, Cooney, Browne, Fifita ,O’Donohoe, Nikora, Vanikolo
Referee: R Thomas (Wales)