Connacht undone by first-half failings

CONNACHT’S hopes of adding a third successive win to this season’s home record came unstuck last night as they fell to a physically stronger Edinburgh side at the Galway Sportsground.

Connacht had entered the game expecting to get a result, after decent performances against Glasgow, Leinster, and Dax. But on a windy night in College Road, they looked nothing like the side that showcased its potential against Leinster three weeks ago. Instead they leaked three first-half tries and ran up a deficit of 27 first-half points which ultimately was their undoing.

Understandably coach Michael Bradley described it as “disappointing”.

“We did not look sharp at all. Edinburgh were very good, taking every chance in the first half. They were very good in the collision area.”

Edinburgh’s Andy Robinson was also disappointed, but in his side’s failure to score in the second half and nail a winning bonus point. Connacht added some respectability with two well-taken tries in the second half and came close to pushing for a bonus point, but that only masked a dispiriting display in the first half.

Edinburgh, looking to build in their first win on French soil when they overcame Castres in the Heineken Cup, had pace out wide, and strength up front, and Connacht struggled to deal with their physicality at the breakdown.

The visitors used the wind intelligently, kicked into the Connacht half continually and forced the home side to attack from deep. Edinburgh won the crucial battle on the floor and Connacht found themselves pinned inside their own half for most of the first half.

Edinburgh, with superior pace out wide, made the telling breakthrough after seven minutes. It initially came through an unfortunate ricochet off a Connacht player, but flanker Alan MacDonald was lightning quick, breaking through from halfway. Prop Alan Jacobsen adding a few extra yards before wing Simon Webster strode in, rounding three tacklers in the in-goal area to touch down under the posts within eight minutes.

Webster, Mark Robertson — son of legendary Scottish player Keith Robertson — and the three quarters were eager to get involved, and with the pack on top in the scrums and the loose, they were given plenty of opportunity. Full back Chris Paterson added two penalties and three conversions — the second when Edinburgh took a quick penalty after Carr was harshly pinged for not releasing, and when Paterson hacked ahead, he won the race for the second try.

The third try came just before the break when captain Mike Blair sold a dummy and waltzed through for an easy score.

There looked no way back for Connacht but they raised the tempo in the second half and looked more creative, particularly after Fionn Carr had found a gap through the defence before Sean Cronin was stopped just short. Replacement scrum half Kieran Campbell followed suit but was penalised for crossing with the line in sight, but on 59 minutes Connacht got on the scoreboard when Gavin Duffy intercepted on halfway and raced in untouched.

Four minutes later Edinburgh, having been camped on the Connacht line, gave away possession through an intercept. Replacement Andy Dunne did the damage before Carr cut inside to round off the scoring at 14-27 with 17 minutes to go.

Connacht scorers: Tries: Duffy, Carr. Cons: Keatley 2.

CONNACHT: Carr; Wynne, Duffy, Deane, Hearty; Keatley, Murphy; Lyne, Cronin, Morris; Swift, Farley; J Muldoon, O’Connor, Rigney.

Replacements: Dunne for Deane (58); Nathan for Hearty (49); Campbell for Murphy (53); Flavin for Cronin (53); Browne for Swift (30); Gannon for Farley (40).

Edinburgh scorers: Tries: Webster, Paterson, M Blair. Cons: Paterson 3. Pens: Paterson 2.

EDINBURGH: Paterson; Robertson, Cairns, De Luca, Webster; Godman, M Blair; Jacobsen, Ford, G Cross; C Hamilton, J Hamilton; Newlands, MacDonald, Hogg.

Replacements: Houston for Cairns (73), Mustchin for C Hamilton (57).

Referee: J Jones (Wales).


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