EDINBURGH’S winning run came to and end after, er, one match. This was an odd game and not a very good one with the home team leading for all but the final four minutes when Connacht snatched victory at the death.
Trailing by four points and awarded a kickable penalty Connacht opted instead for an attacking lineout and umpteen backs joined the resulting maul five metres from the Edinburgh line. The massed ranks of green jerseys then marched their way in slow motion over the Edinburgh line and flanker Willie Faloon was awarded the score. It was a highly dramatic ending to an utterly forgettable game.
“We were just very flat tonight,” said Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons. “We spoke about all week how we peaked against Munster and we spoke about making sure that we were in the right frame of mind, mentally and physically. We took things relatively easy during the week and obviously Connacht are a side never to be underestimated. We just weren’t at the races today.”
Solomons was left to rue a performance from his set scrum that may very well have cost his side the match. Edinburgh started well enough but Connacht dominated them by the end with Edinburgh conceding several penalties and free kicks including one which cost them their last chance to salvage this match. WP Nel was also shown a yellow card just 15 minutes after entering the fray at half time.
“The set scrum was difficult,” said Solomons. “We will sit down and go through every one of them with a fine tooth comb. We have to get to the bottom of it because that was a killer for us, even right at the end there.
“I thought that the scrum made an enormous difference. We were just too passive tonight, we were too flat, but there is no doubt that what happened at scrum time had a bearing.”
On the plus side for Edinburgh, Tom Heathcote enjoyed a commanding performance at ten and his one miss off the tee hit the posts. Cornel Du Preez is gold dust, scoring one try and it should have been a brace.
Highlanders’ import Phil Burleigh looked the part on his club debut at outside centre and Hamish Watson was his usual industrious self.
On the flipside Edinburgh’s scrum wilted badly when put under pressure and full-back Jack Cuthbert endured a first forty minutes that will make for uncomfortable viewing come Monday’s video session.
Heathcote was successful with two penalties in the opening quarter, while Connacht’s fullback Darragh Leader fluffed two tough, long-range efforts to give the home side an early advantage. It should have been more because Edinburgh then squandered two opportunities to score the first try and Cuthbert had a hand in both.
First up the Edinburgh fullback overcooked his grubber kick so it beat Nick McLennan to the dead ball line. Then Edinburgh worked a overlap but Cuthbert misjudged what should have been a simple scoring pass to Sam Beard on the right wing, giving it early so Leader was able to scramble back and knock Beard into touch. Things went from bad to worse for Edinburgh as Cuthbert guddled a quickly taken lineout back over his own try line and gifted the visitors an unexpected five-metre scrum, although the danger was eventually cleared.
Connacht had already make their mark on the scoreboard with a 22nd-minute penalty under the posts when prop John Andress failed to roll away from the ball and the same man allowed Leader to level the scores with his second successful kick just before the break after collapsing a set scrum.
Edinburgh had the last words of the first half thanks to Sean Kennedy. The scrum-half’s long kick earned Edinburgh good field position and after several phases, Kennedy seemed go left left almost by accident and the ball was worked to an unmarked Du Preez on wing. Until that, the highlight of a disappointing second half had been the two yellow cards. Leader popped over Connacht’s third penalty when the referee’s patience with Edinburgh’s set scrum ran out and Nel took a ten-minute rest. Luckily for the home side the Connacht flanker Faloon swapped places with the Edinburgh prop after the replays on the big screen caught him stamping.
A kick and chase from Du Preez ten minutes from time won his team an attacking scrum and, with Connacht now reduced to 14 players, the No 8 picked and drove over the line only for the referee to spot a knock on on the big screen replay.
It proved a costly slip. Connacht went up the other end of the field and Faloon came up with the winner.
Edinburgh: Try: Du Preez Conv: Heathcote Pen: Heathcote (2); Connacht: Try: Faloon Conv: Pen: Leader (3).
Edinburgh: Cuthbert, Beard (Hart 78), Burleigh, Strauss, McLennan(Dominguez 53); Heathcote, Kennedy (Hidalgo-Clyne 52); Dickinson, Ford (c) (Hilterbrand 65), Andress (Nel 40), McKenzie (Bresler 52), Atkins, Leonardi (Coman 59), Watson, Du Preez.
Connacht: Leader, Adeolokun, Henshaw, McSharry, Poolman; Carty, Marmion; Buckley, Heffernan (Henry 40), White, Kearney, Roux, Muldoon (c), Faloon, McKeon (Naoupu 50).