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EIGHT GAMES TO THE TITLE

Edinburgh Rugby: 49 Connacht: 31



After a disappointing run over the last few months, it was perhaps inevitable that someone would bear the brunt of pent-up capital frustration.  Friday's visitors, Connacht, were duly whipped in a thrilling six try victory, secured by a home side missing most of their Test players.  It was not a faultless performance, given that the whip-ees themselves managed to secure a four try bonus.  Nevertheless, it was an important win against a team that is more than capable of causing an upset, particularly when stronger sides are weakened during the international period.

It was a game that showed the importance of Simon Webster, in particular, to Edinburgh.  He positively thrives on the loose counter-attacking game that remains a feature of Edinburgh's play, even under Lynn Howells.  He was duly rewarded with two tries and rave reviews that suggest it will not be long before he is back in a navy blue jersey during the 6 Nations.  Fellow returnee Ally Hogg also had a fine game, and made it through the 80 minutes with no problems.  Meanwhile, Rob Dewey looks to be returning to explosive form at about the right time, both for the national side and for Edinburgh.

But it was the visitors who secured the first points of the night, nicking the ball off a rare Hodge error to see McPhillips nip up the left wing for the converted try.  This stung Edinburgh into life, with the home side exerting pressure before Dewey threw a lovely dummy to open up the space for a fine try by himself. 

Then Cairns put Webster arcing away on a fine run, only for the flier to be nailed into touch in the corner.  But a botched Connacht throw at the defensive lineout saw Strokosch over for the converted try - 14 - 7 Edinburgh at the end of the first quarter.

After a Warwick penalty from the restart, Webster cut through the defence in trademark fashion.  The winger's flip to Dewey saw the big centre power over under the posts for the third converted try of the night.  But McPhillips notched his own second shortly afterwards, thanks to slack defence.  Hodge's subsequent penalty gave Edinburgh a 24-14 lead at the break.

It was game over almost immediately after the restart, though.  The increasingly impressive John Senio nipped over from close in for a touchdown off an attacking scrum.  Again, veteran stand-off Duncan "Hodgey" Hodge followed that up with a penalty after full back Riordan was carded for offside.

Then on 50 minutes, Webster gambled by dropping back to field a Connacht clearance.  As is his wont, the Hartlepool Hyaena countered and was rewarded for his adventure with the touchdown that put him into first place in Edinburgh's list of Celtic try getters, ahead of Edinburgh legend Derrick "Dessie" Lee.  After Riordan replied, Webster added a second try to his tally off fine work by the increasingly impressive Ben Cairns.

A late Gannon try, securing a Connacht bonus, and  a Godman penalty rounded off a thrilling evening of wide open rugby at Murrayfield.
 
As a resulty of the five points, and results elsewhere, Embra now sit eight points shy of leaders Leinster, and six off Ulster, with a game in hand over both. With a number of teams clustered in the 30 - 40 point region, and seven or eight games to play, this competition could go anywhere.  Previous disappointing results can be put behind us, with the team concentrating on taking - and winning - each game as it comes.

As has been pointed out here on numerous occasions in the past, in tight competitions, bonus points are crucial.  There is no doubt that this will be so this year, and Edinburgh are currently off the pace in that department - even in losing to the Ospreys this weekend, Ulster managed to pick up a loser's point.  So now that Edinburgh have revived their try scoring abilities, they really need to be looking for four on each outing from now on.

The visit to Donnybrook next month to take on a similarly weakened Dublin side will be a pivotal trip.



Edinburgh: Andrew Easson; Matt Dey, Ben Cairns, Rob Dewey, Simon Webster, Duncan Hodge (c), John Senio; Allan Jacobsen, Steven Lawrie, Geoff Cross, Matt Mustchin, Scott Murray, Alasdair Strokosch, Ross Rennie, Allister Hogg.
Replacements: Andrew Kelly, David Young, Chris Bentley, Alan MacDonald, Greig Laidlaw, Phil Godman, Lucio Lopez Fleming.

Connacht: D Riordan; J Hearty, G Williams, M McHugh, C McPhilips; P Warwick, C O'Loughlin; B Wilkinson, J Fogarty (c), S Knoop; D Gannon, A Farley; M Lacey, R Ofisa, C Rigney.
Replacements: A Flavin, R Hogan, M Swift, B O'Connor, C Keane, P Durcan, D Slemen.

Referee: Bollard (WRU)