EDINBURGH fell to a demoralising defeat in Galway last night when they failed to build on a decent first-half display against the wind at the Sportsground.
But a penalty count of 12-2 against them robbed Edinburgh of any real chance of winning in Ireland for only the second time in almost four years.
An opening try from Roddy Grant gave Edinburgh great hope but Connacht, with a superior pack which won three scrums against the head and also pinched a lineout, took control. Thankfully for Edinburgh, they couldn’t turn that superiority into points, with Craig Ronaldson landing just one of five goal attempts – which included three first-half penalties – on the night.
As a result Edinburgh led 7-3 at the break. They showed Connacht how to make the most of opportunites. Nick De Luca, one of three to start from the Scottish Six Nations squad along with Ross Ford and Geoff Cross, made the initial break, with debutant Andries Strauss taking it on and a good maul was finished with Grant getting the touchdown.
South African stand-off Carl Bezuidenhout, making his first start, landed the difficult conversion from the left. The dominant Connacht pack won a penalty which Ronaldson then converted in front of the posts after 21 minutes.
Connacht stepped up a gear after the restart. Once more, the initiative came from the forwards and their hard work saw Edinburgh No.8 Cornell du Preez receive a yellow card after 45 minutes for persistent fouling. Connacht took full advantage, sending the penalty to the right corner before a few surges at the Edinburgh line ended with the league’s longest serving player, Michael Swift, getting only his fifth try in 175 appearances.
But, once again, Ronaldson failed to add the extras, crashing the ball off the near post with a kick that was just to the right.
Connacht were unable to add anything else while they had the extra man and might have lost their 8-7 lead but Bezuidenhout missed a penalty from 40 metres.
Former Scottish international Dan Parks took over the home side’s kicking duties when he was introduced and he extended Connacht’s lead to 11-7 after 67 minutes with a penalty in front of the posts.
Edinburgh created nothing after that and never looked like snatching a late win as Connacht deservedly held on for victory.
Jack Cuthbert was whistled back in the third quarter when he raced over for what looked like Edinburgh’s second try but that will be just one of many decisions by Italian referee Claudio Blessano which Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons will question.
But on the night they just did not build the phases which would threaten a Connacht side who had not won since December and who celebrated wildly after nailing only their second win in 13 league matches. Truth be told, Edinburgh rarely looked like getting anything more than a bonus point and never threatened the home line in the final quarter of a poor game.