Edinburgh defeat Connacht with last kick as Ben Vellacott issues timely reminder ahead of Ali Price arrival
Edinburgh left it late but it was worth it. With the clock in red, Ben Healy dropped a goal to win an enthralling match 25-22 for the home side who now have three victories in four URC matches under new coach Sean Everitt.
Connacht were worthy opponents and Edinburgh were never able to shake them off completely but were galvanised by a second-half performance from Ben Vellacott who was named player of the match – not bad for a substitute who only came on in the 44th minute. The scrum-half scored one of Edinburgh’s three tries, set up Mark Bennett for another and delivered the pass to Healy for his moment of glory. In the week that Edinburgh signed Scotland No 9 Ali Price, this was a timely reminder from Vellacott of his abundant qualities.
Pierre Schoeman was afforded the honour of leading Edinburgh onto the field on the occasion of his 100th appearance for the club but it was a mixed night for the popular prop who was yellow-carded early in the second half.
Wes Goosen took only four and a half minutes to put Edinburgh ahead. Scrum-half Charlie Shiel started it, winning a turnover around halfway, then playing the final pass to Goosen who ran in from the 22. In between, Viliame Mata showed quick hands and Bennett made a searing break which was instrumental to the score. Healy converted from wide on the right.
Cold hands and a slippery surface contributed to a number of errors and Edinburgh almost landed themselves in trouble as Healy lost his footing and played a short pass to Blair Kinghorn only for the full-back to also stumble. Fortunately for the home side, Connacht couldn’t capitalise.
The visitors came into this game on the back of three consecutive wins and they looked lively throughout the first half. They punished Javan Sebastian for going offside six minutes before the break, with Jack Carty knocking over the penalty to cut the lead to 7-3. Edinburgh came back strongly but were held up on the line and there was no more scoring in the first half.
The second half had barely started before Connacht lost John Porch to injury. The winger received treatment on the field for several minutes before being carted off and replaced by David Hawkshaw.
Edinburgh also made a change, Vellacott coming on for Shiel and the replacement scrum-half made an immediate impact, scoring his side’s second try of the night. Duhan van der Merwe was the creator, taking a pass from Kinghorn then embarking on one of those trademark swerving runs which give defenders nightmares. Vellacott matched it all the way and took the winger’s pass inside to score.
Healy converted but Edinburgh were hit by a double whammy four minutes later. Connacht got the try they probably deserved when Tiernan O’Halloran forced his way over from close range and then Schoeman was sent to the sin-bin for head-on-head contact with Jack Aungier in the build-up.
A close range penalty from Healy gave Edinburgh a bit of breathing space at 17-10 but the respite was brief as Connacht scored a try through their own impact sub. Joe Joyce, on for Darragh Murray, showed good strength to get over the line. Fortunately for Edinburgh, Carty was off target with the conversion attempt but the home side’s lead had been cut to a measly two points as the game entered its final quarter.
Edinburgh signed Price on Thursday and scrum-half is going to be a fiercely contested position at the club. Vellacott, the capital side’s co-captain, isn’t ready to give up the jersey and was outstanding in the second half. Quick of thought as well as deed, he took a tap penalty to set up Edinburgh’s third try for Bennett as Connacht stood around expecting a kick at goal. In truth, it was poor play from the Irish visitors who switched off and gave Bennett the room he needed.
Healy missed the conversion meaning Edinburgh’s lead was only seven points and Connacht restored parity with four minutes remaining. Their third try was like the previous two, scored from close range after a period of forwards pressure, and this time it was flanker Cian Prendergast who did the damage. JJ Hanrahan, the replacement full-back, converted to make it 22-22.
Edinburgh kept their heads and worked their way back up the field, setting up Healy for the shot at goal and, with the final kick of the game, the stand-off duly delivered.
Scorers: Edinburgh: Tries: Goosen, Vellacott, Bennett. Cons: Healy 2. Pen: Healy. Drop goal: Healy.
Connacht: Tries: O’Halloran, Joyce, Prendergast. Cons: Carty, Hanrahan. Pen: Carty.
Yellow card: Schoeman (Edinburgh, 51min)
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; W Goosen, M Bennett (C Dean 71), J Lang, D van der Merwe; B Healy, C Shiel (B Vellacott 44); P Schoeman (B Venter 60), E Ashman (D Cherry 60), J Sebastian (A Williams 60), G Young (M Sykes 60), G Gilchrist (c), T Dodd (B Muncaster 71), C Boyle (B Venter 53-60), V Mata.
Connacht: T O’Halloran (JJ Hanrahan 61); J Porch (D Hawkshaw 42), B Ralston, T Daly, A Smith; J Carty (c), C Blade (C Reilly 61); P Dooley (J Duggan 56), T McElroy (D Tierney-Martin 60), J Aungier, N Murray, D Murray (J Joyce 56), C Prendergast, C Oliver, S O’Brien.
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