Main RSS Feed Forum RSS Feed

Search

Next Fixture

No Upcoming Fixtures Available

Latest Poll

Caullie Lug 16/17




View Results

Log In






Forgot Password

View Article

CONNACHT PREVAIL IN MURRAYFIELD THRILLER

Edinburgh Rugby:23 (0) Connacht:28 (14)



Going into this match, Connacht topped the Pro12, 12 points ahead of Edinburgh.  The Gunners were just about hanging on in Euro qualification territory for next season, having edged the Scarlets at home last Sunday.  But we are at the stage in the season when any loss for those sides from fourth to eighth could prove decisive.  The home side welcomed back international squad men SHC, Scott and Rory Sutherland and fielded just about the strongest starting XV possible at this time of year.  Could their second choice front row once again play a blinder and set up the platform from which to best the men from Galway?

One has been waiting for Connacht to lose momentum post-World Cup as the notionally stronger sides see the return of their internationals.  Well, it hasn't happened yet.  They were always pretty stuffy opponents, but Pat Lam has made them pretty handy in attack too.  At kick off, they were the league's top try scorers and deservedly four clear at the top. Sadly, they're still not a big draw, though, and both sides took the field before a fairly sparse crowd on a chilly evening.

Things got off to a bright start for both sides.  Firstly, Edinburgh kicked an early penalty to the enemy 22.  Connacht defended the maul well and forced a penalty which allowed them to clear.  Shortly afterwards, du Preez gave away a high tackle penalty.  But the kick hit the left post, an alert Toolis (B) gathered the rebound and the Gunners cleared. This was shaping up to be an intriguing contest with the home side playing in to a slight breeze.  The Embra set piece looked as strong as usual while one man wrecking ball Jamie Ritchie put himself about to good effect in the early exchanges.  That said, Edinburgh were kicking attacking ball a bit overmuch when chances seemed on, which Connacht looked dangerous when they cleared the breakdown sharply, scrum half Marmion looking impressive.

After a period of concerted pressure and with referee playing advantage offside, American playmaker AJ McGinty cut back against the drifting defence to barge over for a good try and one that had been coming for a while.  The conversion gave the visitors a deserved 7-0 lead on 22 minutes.  Sadly, Matt Scott retired with a wrist injury, Beard replacing him in the centre.  Shortly afterwards, Edinburgh blew a good attacking opportunity after Connacht smashed them in a defensive scrummage to earn the clearing penalty.  How would the Gunners respond?

On the half hour, Connacht had repeated probes in the Edinburgh red zone but the Gunners' defence held out superbly, winning a defensive scrummage.  Again they were under pressure and Burleigh's clearance didn't get out of the 22.  Crucial time this.  With the referee playing advantage for pulling the maul down, Connacht shifted the ball to the other wing but a super tackle from BBK and Tom 'Schooldays' Brown forced a knock on from South African import Pullman.  But another South African, Ants Bresler, was carded for the penalty and Connacht tried to roll over again. There was an air of inevitability about openside Heenan, Ronaldson's fine conversion pushing Connacht 14-0 up and the alarm bells were ringing.    

A classic du Prez offload put Hoyland scooting away like a demented hamster, the winger getting to five metres out. Edinburgh had a huge overlap on the left but the ball was knocked on after Ritchie had been stopped just short.  The youngster really should have fed the supporting BBK in space on the outside.  An opportunity missed, a lesson learned.  With time running down, the Gunners had a penalty, which they kicked to the corner.  The maul made a bit of progress, but the following phases were driven back.  But the visitors turned over ball at the breakdown. They failed to find touch and Watson surged down the wing, stopped only by a high tackle from both Pullman and O'Halloran, the latter with a swinging arm.  O'Halloran duly saw yellow.  SHC's effort just drifted wide and another chance went abegging.  14-0 Connacht at the break and they looked easily the superior side.  There had been glimpses from the Embramen, but nothing had really clicked so far.

As last week, Si Berghan came on at the break at tighthead.  The Gunenrs were again sparked by a du Preez offload to Hoyland, the winger again bearing down on the goal line.  Connacht managed to win loose ball, but failed to clear beyond the 22.  The Gunhners were in a god attacking position as Ants returned.  They seemd to have butchered a massive overlap on the left.  But an even more massive pass from Hoyland found Chris Dean wide out in space, the threequarter crossing in the corner.  Quick ball following a half time kick up the posterior had paid dividends, despite SHC missing the tough conversion.  Connacht were rocking under pressure. 

But the Gunners coughed up a third try to Aki after good lead up play by the Irish province, Donaldson's simple kick put them 21-5 up on 47 minutes - a real body blow.  But you just cannot afford to stand off a sidfe playing as well as Connacht are at the moment. Aki gave away a cynical ruck offence under pressure as O'Halloran came back on and Burleigh kicked to the corner.  With the referee playing advantage for side entry in the maul, Watson so nearly smashed over.  Great Connacht defending of the close in breenges, then the ball was whipped wide and BBK straightened the line beautifully to put Hoyland over in the corner for a try that was richly deserved.  This time, Sammy was successful with the extras.  21-12 down on 52 minutes and Edinburgh were looking dangerous when they kept ball in hand.

Connacht were right back on the attack and came close, but solid home defending forced the penalty that allowed the Gunners to clear.  A sense, perhaps, that the tide was turning approaching the hour as the Embramen upped the tempo.  Once again, Hoyland's mazy run on the right made great ground.  The ball was shipped left for Ants to cut through the defence and surge linewards.  He was tackled short, offloaded brilliantly and the attack went on. Eventually, SHC fed du Preez in the left corner for the No 8 to squeeze in for the Gunners' third.  Both these sides were close to a try bonus entering the final quarter.  SHC hit the post with the conversion effort, but at 21-17 down it was game on.  What a cracker of a match! 

That is what happens when you secure quick ball.  And that is what happens, too, when you have a sympathetic referee.  Mr Whitehouse might look like he's barely out of nursery school, but he was consistent and his approach favoured attacking rugby.

Connacht were starting to creak a bit under pressure, the unforced errors creeping in.  The psychological edge was Edinburgh's and we were seeing what these talented young outside backs can do given some ball.  And though the Connacht scrum had had a couple of massive triumphs in the second period, now the Gunners scrummage was waxing strong.

They surged deep into the 22 and Muldoon offended at the breakdown in front of the posts on 68 minutes.  SHC knocked the simple kick over and it was 21-20 with 11 minutes left to run.  Connacht immediately pummelled the home line, though, and only desperate defence kept them out.  The match was being played in the wrong place and Edinburgh desperately needed to get back into the visitors' half. The Connacht bonus point try came, though, off an attacking scrummage on 73 minutes and the lead went out again to eight with the successful conversion.

The Gunners executed a choke tackle at the restart to win a scrum just outside the visiting 22.  Still time to get at least a losing bonus, perhaps with a try bonus into the bargain?  They won a scrum penalty as normal service was resumed and kicked to the corner on 77 minutes.  The maul rumbled, the phases went in, but Muldoon won a breakdown penalty under pressure.   Yet Connacht threw squint and the Gunners were still in with a chance as they took the scrum.  Eventually, they forced a breakdown penalty, which SHC knocked over from distance for a losing bonus.

The visitors duly ran out deserved winners in a real thriller.