Edinburgh survive late Connacht fight back

Connacht 25 Edinburgh 26

Intense and immense at times, Edinburgh deserved their triumph and the reversal of fortunes from the earlier Celtic League clash, but it was agonisingly close in the dying moments of the match.

Ultimately, Connacht paid the price for their inability to keep minds concentrated on the task in hand. They conceded two early tries, came back to make a match of it, fell victim once again to some very clever Edinburgh play and then responded again at the death to leave the crowd and their opponents gasping for air.

Vanquished coach Michael Bradley had every reason to feel proud of his charges, but he was equally magnanimous about the merit of Edinburgh’s victory.

“We had our chances near the finish, but we needed a steady hand and didn’t have it.

“It all probably came down to over-anxiety.

“We needed to be patient in our final build up, but panicked ourselves into taking outside chances of the score that would have won it.”

Sadly for Connacht, it was probably the attempted conversion of a second-half try that skimmed the post that ultimately proved most costly, but Elwood was in no way culpable in the broader analysis.

As Bradley observed: “It was more complicated than that. We didn’t kick very well from a tactical point of view, and we allowed them in for a couple of soft tries because we made mistakes.

“We were not really consistent enough. Just when it appeared we were getting on top, they either raised their game or we lost the drift.

“At the end, even though we had a few minutes to play around with, we went for the quick fix rather than showing patience and a bit of composure. It’s hard to blame the lads because these things happen in rugby.

“Despite the defeat, it was a very good game, and I was delighted to see such a huge crowd create a brilliant atmosphere. After watching such an exciting game, hopefully they will be tempted back.”

Connacht dominated the early stages, but then fell victim to a sucker punch when Edinburgh swept the ball out wide to where captain Todd Blackadder was lurking.

His drive to the line was unsuccessful, but he did manage to pop up the ball to Craig Smith, and the burly prop crashed over for a try that Brendan Laney converted.

It got worse for Connacht midway through the half when they turned over possession near half way, and Alistair Hogg was first to react for the visitors.

His powerful run carried him 40 metres, and his pass to Laney was so perfectly timed that the out-half had a clear run to the posts. He added the easy conversion to sweep Edinburgh into a 14 point lead.

Eric Elwood quickly brought Connacht back into the game when he kicked a penalty, and then his exquisitely timed pass created the vital gap to allow Darren Yapp to go through unopposed for a Connacht try. Elwood converted, and with 30 minutes gone, it was game on.

It looked even more encouraging when Yapp was sent in for another try six minutes into the second half. Elwood shaved the upright with the conversion attempt, but then knocked over a penalty to give Connacht an 18-14 lead.

But to their credit, Edinburgh pushed on again and grabbed two tries inside a minute. Derek Lee went over in the 53rd minute and Laney streaked away for another.

The drama continued without interruption until the end. Yapp scored his hat-trick five minutes from the end, and Elwood converted to put just a point between the sides.

Edinburgh’s Alistair Kellock was over the Connacht line, but failed to ground the ball, and then, in the last pulsating minutes, Mark McHugh was off target with three speculative drop goals and a penalty attempt from the half way line.

CONNACHT: D. Hewitt, M. Mostyn, D. Yapp, M. McHugh, C. McPhillips, E. Elwood, M. Walls, R. Hogan, B. Jackman (captain), A. Clarke, D. Browne, A. Farley, M. Swift, J. O’Sullivan, P. Neville. Replacements. F. Boiroux for Hogan (15), T. Carter for Swift, C. O’Loughlin for Walls (both 55), T. Allnutt for Hewitt (56)

EDINBURGH: D. Lee, S. Webster, M. Di Rollo, C. Joiner, H. Southwell, B. Laney, R. Lawson, A. Jacobsen, A. Kelly, C. Smith, S. Murray, A. Kellock, T. Blackadder (captain), A. Hogg, S. Cross. Replacements. G. Burns for Lawson (56), C. Di Ciacca for Kelly, A. Dall for Cross (both 68)

Referee: N. Owens (Wales)

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