Connacht hold off Edinburgh fightback to stay in control of PRO12
Published 04/03/2016 | 23:01
Guinness PRO12 leaders Connacht held off a spirited Edinburgh fightback to claim a hard-fought 28-23 victory on Friday night.
Connacht's tries came from AJ MacGinty, Jake Heenan, Bundee Aki and Eoin McKeon, with Craig Ronaldson kicking three conversions and McGinty one.
The hosts trailed 14-0 at the break, but closed the gap to just a point in the second half as Chris Dean, Damien Hoyland and Cornell Du Preez all touched down and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne landed one conversion plus two penalties.
However, their comeback fell just short.
The visitors started the game well and Ronaldson came close to opening the scoring after four minutes, but his first penalty attempt of the night rebounded off a post.
Connacht continued to press, but failed to breach a solid home defence until the 21st minute when Aki drew two defenders and passed to MacGinty, who powered his way between two defenders to touch down. Ronaldson stroked over the conversion.
Connacht almost added to their tally when first Aki and then MacGinty attempted to break through, but they were thwarted just short of the target.
Danie Poolman came close to touching down in the corner, but the referee referred the decision to the TMO, who ruled that the winger had been tackled into touch by Blair Kinghorn.
However, advantage was being played and the penalty was awarded inside the home 22, with Edinburgh lock Anton Bresler shown a yellow card for pulling down the maul.
Connacht opted for the scrum and shunted the short-handed hosts backwards, allowing Heenan to peel off and dive over the line. Ronaldson again added the extras.
Edinburgh finally made it into the opposition 22 after 35 minutes thanks to a searing run by Damien Hoyland. That sparked a lively finish to the half and a high tackle on Hamish Watson as he hurtled down the wing produced a yellow card for Tiernan O'Halloran and a penalty for the hosts.
However, Hidalgo-Clyne was awry with his kick at goal and Connacht went in at half time with a 14-0 advantage.
Edinburgh started the second half well and claimed a try after 43 minutes when Hoyland threw out a long pass to Dean, who raced in at the corner for an unconverted score.
Having clawed their way back into the match, Edinburgh promptly handed the initiative back to their opponents when Aki was allowed to take a pass 15 minutes out and stroll over untouched for a try which Ronaldson again converted.
With 51 minutes gone, Edinburgh struck back when Hoyland took a pass from Kinghorn and darted in at the corner. Hidalgo-Clyne swept over the conversion, meaning the deficit was back down to nine points.
And it became even tighter with an hour on the clock when another spell of pressure ended with Hidalgo-Clyne passing to Du Preez for his side's third try before watching as his conversion attempt crashed back off the bar.
However, he atoned for that miss with a straightforward penalty in 68 minutes that left the home side just one point behind.
However, Connacht were not to be denied and secured the bonus point, and with it the victory, when McKeon powered over from close range for the fourth try and MacGinty added the conversion.
But there was still enough time for Hidalgo-Clyne to claim a narrow defeat bonus point when he landed his second penalty with the final play of the match.