Edinburgh's losing run is extended to six matches as Connacht win 37-26
This was an occasion when the current ban on crowds at sports events might be viewed as a blessing in disguise, with Edinburgh supporters saved the ordeal of having to leave their homes on a Sunday night to watch their team finish a distant second-best to a team which had managed only one previous win in the last 11 months of this competition.
Richard Cockerill’s side might have been missing 17 players to either international commitments or injury, meaning it was always going to be a tough 80 minutes, but they will still be pretty frustrated with how easily they coughed up possession and points which meant they never really looked like serious contenders.
Three excellent tries inside the space of 15-minutes midway through the first half put Connacht into a commanding 16-point lead, and although a brace of tries from Edinburgh hooker Mike Willemse either side of half-time brought it back to a four-point game, the visitors quickly re-asserted themselves with two more tries which secured a commanding and well-deserved win.
Edinburgh have now lost six games on the bounce, and with a trip to Llanelli to take on the Scarlets their next appointment this coming Sunday, life isn’t going to get any easier any time soon.
“We did some good things and we scored some nice tries, but we were a little bit easy to score against,” was Cockerill’s rather optimistic analysis. “That’s not like us. They kicked behind us and got some joy from it, which is very disappointing.
“Three tries from kicks,” he continued. “We need to be in better positions to read that. It’s a bit raw at the moment but if teams put the ball in behind us, we have to cover those options.
“There were some good parts as well. We are falling the wrong side of the scoreboard too often in the last four or five weeks and we need to stem that as quickly as possible.”
“We are missing a lot of guys. WP Nel had to come off from orders from the national team,” he added.
While Cockerill was understandably reluctant to throw his team under the bus, he was not prepared to use the lack of experience in his side as an excuse.
“Those guys train with us all the time,” he pointed out. “Young guys make more mistakes than experienced guys, that’s just the nature of it. We’ll get the benefit as time goes on.
“We have to keep working at our game. There’s no magic potion. Last season these games fell our way but this season we don’t seem able to put enough quality in our game to win games.
“We have to keep working hard. Sometimes you have to show a bit of character. Before this we won six on the trot. We have to get better, simple as that. But no excuses. We should be more difficult to play against than we were tonight.
Connacht took an early lead through a Conor Fitzgerald penalty, and although Edinburgh bounced back to take the lead when scrum-half Nic Groom wriggled his way over from close range, it was only for four minutes, and within 20 minutes the home team were 16 points behind.
First, Connacht scrum-half Coalin Blade showed great presence of mind to nip down the short-side when the ball emerged unexpectedly from a line-out maul, then hacked ahead past the last defender and gathered the bouncing ball without breaking stride for an excellent individualist score. Then Fitzgerald followed his half-back partner’s lead by sending an excellent gribber into the corner for winger Sam Arnold to swoop in for the score in the right hand corner. Then slick hands form an overthrown line-out near halfway allowed full-back John Porch to make good yards down the left touchline, before sending Alex Wootton off on an unchallenged race to the line.
In the middle of all that, Edinburgh did have a chance to alter the general flow of the match when a well-worked set-move from a line-out saw Eroni Sau come off his wing and dart under the posts from an inside pass James Johnstone, but the TMO was consulted and the replay showed that Chris Dean had obstructed a potential tackler with his dummy run.
Those two tries from Willemse – in injury time of the first half and after 10 minutes of the second half – hauled Edinburgh right back into the match, but they couldn’t sustain that momentum, and paid the price when the excellent Blade pierced Edinburgh’s defence against with another clever grubber kick, which gave Wootton his second try of the night, and secured the bonus-point.
Connacht took the game well beyond Edinburgh’s reach when hooker Shane Delahunt galloped through a yawning gap in Edinburgh’s day-dreaming defensive line, then finished off the move off himself with another powerful surge a few phases later.
Edinburgh picked up the consolation prize of a four-try bonus point when Andrew Davidson – who had led the home team’s resistance – rumbled in under the posts with eight minutes to go.
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