Wednesday 21 February 2018

Connacht hold out for victory over Edinburgh

Pat Lam's Connacht had a narrow win over Edinburgh
Pat Lam's Connacht had a narrow win over Edinburgh

Connacht closed out a tense 14-9 victory over Edinburgh at the Sportsground to stay second in the Guinness PRO12 table.

A brilliantly-worked try from Connacht's player of the month Tiernan O'Halloran had the hosts 8-6 ahead at the break, with Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and teenage full-back Blair Kinghorn kicking a penalty apiece for Edinburgh.

Jack Carty landed two second half penalties, sandwiching a 55th minute effort from Hidalgo-Clyne, and those kicks proved vital as Pat Lam's men, with five wins from six games, remain hot on the heels of the table-topping Scarlets.

Carty's 25 metre penalty got Connacht up and running and they provided the highlight of a finely balanced first half when full-back O'Halloran crossed in the ninth minute.

From a lineout won by Aly Muldowney, Carty's inviting inside pass sent Matt Healy charging through a gap and he linked with O'Halloran on his outside for a score straight off the training ground.

Carty's conversion attempt from near the right touchline came back off the post and Edinburgh were quick to respond.

They pressed from a lineout maul and while they failed to make use of numbers out wide, scrum half Hidalgo-Clyne successfully slotted a penalty on the quarter hour.

The Scots disrupted Connacht's usually solid set piece game and the hosts needed a couple of breakdown wins from Denis Buckley and O'Halloran to break up Edinburgh's attacking momentum.

On the whole it was a scrappy opening 40 minutes, blighted by stop-start passages of play and handling errors.

However, as half-time approached, the 18-year-old Kinghorn had the accuracy and distance to convert a long range penalty and draw Edinburgh within two points.

A strong burst from Bundee Aki led to a penalty early on the resumption which Carty sent through the uprights for 11-6.

Sam Beard, one of Edinburgh's most threatening runners, led the Scots' response with a neat break and Hidalgo-Clyne clipped over his second penalty, rewarding his forwards for further pressure on the Connacht lineout.

Livewire flanker Nepia Fox-Matamua got over a ruck ball straight from the restart to win a penalty which Carty converted for 14-9, with Ireland Rugby World Cup squad member Nathan White making his entrance off the bench.

Edinburgh, who made the trip without nine frontline players, gave away hard-earned territory as Connacht's pack grew in influence.

They won a scrum penalty which Carty drew wide from distance and he also missed a 78th minute kick after Edinburgh lock Fraser McKenzie was sin-binned for a high tackle.

The 14 men launched a determined late surge from their own half but Connacht held their nerve to win a final breakdown penalty and avenge last January's 16-13 home defeat to the Scots.

Press Association

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