Relief for Bradley as Edinburgh 'get out of jail'
Connacht 23 Edinburgh 24
Michael Bradley knows what each victory means to Connacht and he was the first to admit on Saturday night that his team of internationals were lucky to survive against a vastly understrength home side.
The former Connacht coach watched in horror as Dan Parks lined up a last-minute drop-goal to win it, but the most prolific scorer in the league's history skewed it wide.
"We got out of jail," admitted Bradley, who spent seven seasons in Galway. "We were eight points up with 10 minutes to go but Connacht came straight back into it."
He fielded nine current internationals and that should have been enough to see off a Connacht side with 17 players sidelined through injury – they also lost captain Gavin Duffy in the opening half – but Bradley knows only too well how they revel when the odds are against them.
"Tactically they were very good and kept the pressure on us," he said. "They didn't let us settle at all, but we got a couple of lucky breaks.
"We got 14 points from block-downs and kick-throughs, so Eric (Elwood) will be disappointed with that but his lads were fantastic."
Elwood was disappointed but proud and had consoling words for Parks.
"Some nights you get those and you are the hero and other nights you don't get them and people are all looking at you. Dan is hurting at the moment but he will bounce back," said Elwood.
Several times Edinburgh threatened to pull away and while they never trailed – Tim Visser displayed awesome pace after five minutes to score his 10th try of the campaign from deep – could not put sufficient daylight between the teams to feel comfortable.
The fired-up Connacht pack rumbled over from a line-out for hooker Jason Harris-Wright to touch down after 12 minutes, and when Matt Scott raced on to a chip in the '22' from the superb Greig Laidlaw for a second Edinburgh try after 35 minutes, Connacht responded with a penalty from Parks to leave it 17-13 to the visitors at the break.
Edinburgh pulled further clear when Stuart McInally raced through to score 15 minutes from time, with Laidlaw's conversion making it 24-16.
Connacht went all out to salvage the game and a superb backline move sent Danie Poolman sliding over but the comeback came up agonisingly short when Park sent his late effort wide.
Connacht – R Henshaw; T O'Halloran, D Poolman, D McSharry, G Duffy (F Vainikolo 23); D Parks, K Marmion (P O'Donohoe 58); B Wilkinson (D Buckley 54), J Harris-Wright, R Loughney; M Kearney, A Browne; J O'Connor (D Qualter 71), W Faloon, E McKeon.
Edinburgh – G Tonks; T Brown, N De Luca, M Scott, T Visser; G Laidlaw, R Rees (C Leck 59); A Jacobsen (J Yapp 50), A Titterrell, W Nel; P Parker (I Van Der Westhuizen 50), S Cox; D Denton, R Grant, S McInally.
Ref – M Mitrea (FIR)