Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill was scathing of Welsh referee Ian Davies after watching his side get their first win of the season in a low quality match at BT Murrayfield last night.
After narrow losses in two demanding opening away fixtures and a trip to face Guinness Pro14 and European champions Leinster coming up, it was imperative that Cockerill’s team got a result and they did, but the coach felt they had been held back by the officials.
“It wasn’t a great spectacle, part of which is our fault because we have to do things better but the standard of officiating hasn’t been great the past two weeks and, if anything, tonight was worse,” said a clearly angry Cockerill.
“There were 15 penalties to four against us, just one yellow card. If you’re going to let teams cheat like that then that’s what you get. Things have got to get better. It’s every week!”
There was a late change to the Edinburgh starting line-up as new Kiwi stand-off Simon Hickey was ruled out with illness and Jaco van der Walt stepped in, with Jamie Farndale coming on to the bench.
There was a warm reception for former club stalwart and 58-times capped Scotland loosehead prop Alasdair Dickinson as he presented the match ball following his retirement in the summer. That preceded a fragmented opening quarter in which no side could build much fluency. Edinburgh came closest when Van der Walt and Matt Scott combined down the left, but the centre was stopped short of the line.
The home side looked on for a score in the 25th minute when full-back Blair Kinghorn made a piercing surge down the left and fed inside to flanker Hamish Watson, who couldn’t quite outrun the covering defence as he charged for the posts.
It led to a decisive moment, however, as the scrambling visitors illegally prevented the quick recycle which led to a penalty and then a yellow card for the Connacht skipper and openside Jarrad Butler.
Edinburgh opted for a scrum and the man-down visitors succumbed immediately as numbers were worked out wide and left wing Duhan van der Merwe cruised over in the corner for Murrayfield’s first home try of the season.
Van der Walt stroked over a wonderful touchline conversion before Connacht enjoyed their best pressure of the game so far, pinning Edinburgh back in their own 22 as the clock ticked past the half-hour mark.
It was a brief foray, however, as the home team finished on the front foot but without ever truly threatening to add to their disappointingly slender 7-0 advantage until a scrum penalty on the stroke of half-time allowed Van der Walt to nudge that into double figures.
Edinburgh continued in positive fashion at the start of the second period and should have had another try when Scott worked a good opportunity for Van der Merwe but the wing couldn’t get a grip of the ball and let it bobble out of his grasp onto the left corner post.
The second try did come in the 55th minute through a more direct driving maul route. Such was the surge of Edinburgh bodies over the line that it seemed there could be no other outcome than a try. Referee Davies seemed sure but went to the TMO, who saw no reason not to award the score, which was accredited to loosehead Pierre Schoeman and duly converted by Van der Walt.
Slack defending gave Connacht a foothold back in the game in the 62nd minute when stand-off Jack Carty flung a long pass out to the right and unmarked right wing Niyi Adeolukun scrambled in the corner and Carty converted from wide out.
With the lead back to ten points Edinburgh had work to do but Connacht had more energy heading into the closing stages and they earned a penalty on the 22-metre mark which they opted to kick to bring them into losing bonus territory, Carty making no mistake.
The Irish continued to press but a penalty against them on the Edinburgh 22 with two minutes left relieved the pressure and the home side saw things out.