Edinburgh 19-22 Connacht: Capital club's fightback in vain
When they had the whip hand, Edinburgh struggled to convert possession into points with the backline short of a cutting edge. The home side held onto the ball for stretches but the men making the half breaks were usually flankers Hamish Watson and Viliame Mata.
Edinburgh outscored Connacht in tries but visiting stand-off Steve Crosbie filled his boots, taking advantage of Edinburgh’s indiscipline at the breakdown with five penalties.
Duncan Weir’s night descended further into the black hole he is digging for himself. Weir missed two very kickable first-half penalties, he hit the corner flag when aiming for a five metre attacking lineout and, after the forwards had driven a line- out a good 20 metres, he dropped the ball the minute it came his way.
Edinburgh’s defence was much improved, with real bite and good line speed. They kept their shape and the likes of Mata and Ben Toolis made their presence felt with some big hits that loosened a few fillings. But as Edinburgh fell behind on the scoreboard the heads went down and they began to fall off tackles as well; Tieran O’Halloran waltzed past three despairing home defenders early in the second half and while the Irish fullback is good, he’s not that good.
Almost the first time Connacht enjoyed some phase play inside the Edinburgh 22 they scored their only try on the half-hour mark, the hosts opened up by the simplest pass from Keith Marmion to Eoin McKean who had picked a canny line running behind his scrummy and crossed the line untouched.
Crosbie kicked the conversion and added another three penalties before the break to give the visitors a handy 16-0 half-time lead which was extended by another three early in the second 40.
Either side of the hour mark, Edinburgh went to the bench with Stuart McInally making his 100th appearance for the club. He played his part in a spirited defensive display with a crucial tackle on Bundee Aki but while Edinburgh kept Connacht out Crosbie added another three off the tee, this one for a high tackle.
With Edinburgh trailing 22-0 the match moved into the fourth quarter and turned on its head. The home side sparked into life with three tries in the space of ten minutes, showing what they might be capable off with some confidence in their veins.
Man of the match Watson scored the second and made the first after breaking the line before offloading to Chris Dean. The centre was tackled just short of the line. Grant Gilchrist had a charge but when the ball was passed left Connacht’s O’Halloran jumped offside to make the interception. After a look at the big screen the referee carded the full-back, awarded a penalty try and Weir added the extras. Three minutes later Watson scored under the posts after sustained Edinburgh pressure and Weir again did the needful. The drama wasn’t over.
Edinburgh earned an attacking lineout, the drive was stopped but they moved the ball left with Watson and Gilchrist both coming close before Glenn Bryce scored in the corner on 73 minutes.
The fans started to believe in the great escape but Weir’s conversion drifted wide and that was as close as they got.