Friday 19 January 2018

Connacht fall just short

Edinburgh 24 Connacht 19

Fourteen months ago, Connacht came to Murrayfield and left nursing the wounds of a 62-13 defeat but last night at Scotland's rugby headquarters the men from Galway emerged with pride intact if not, however, the victory they sought.

Connacht's losing bonus point was well deserved, but it could so easily have been four points at the end of a performance in which they showed poise in attack and dynamic play up front, epitomised by loose-head Brett Wilkinson.

"Given the history of these matches, we have to be positive. What we've shown is that we're there fighting for these matches," said Connacht coach, Eric Elwood.

It may have been close to freezing point at Murrayfield but Connacht were firing on all cylinders in the first 10 minutes, forcing Edinburgh into defensive mode with successive waves of attacks.

The visitors, playing delightfully expansive rugby, were fully rewarded, with their opening score coming from sweet handling along the backline that created an overlap for winger Brian Tuohy. Then from another attack, out-half Miah Nikora, spotting Edinburgh's defence lying too flat, placed a cross kick that allowed Tuohy to take the ball in the air and get his second try.

The good times came to a halt with the familiar goal-kicking style of Chris Paterson, claiming Edinburgh's first points from a 37-metre effort.

Then, against the run of play, Edinburgh struck with their first try of the night from line-out possession, clever positioning and good acceleration from Paterson, who scorched through Connacht's midfield for a try under the posts, leaving the Scotland record cap holder with an easy conversion kick to make it 10-10 going into the break.

The Paterson show continued three minutes into the second half with the full-back's second penalty goal to put Edinburgh into the lead, the lead increased six minutes later with another kick, this time by David Blair.

The Edinburgh full-back resumed his kicking role with an unsuccessful conversion attempt after a try in the corner by winger Tim Visser. Connacht reacted with pressure of their own that produced a penalty goal from Nikora after Gavin Duffy came close to scoring.

Two penalties by Ian Keatley, a replacement for Eoin Griffin who broke his thumb, to one by Paterson put Connacht within five points and the chance of snatching victory late on. But it was not to be as Edinburgh held on.

Edinburgh -- C Paterson; J Thompson, B Cairns, J Houston, T Visser; D Blair, G Laidlaw; K Traynor, A Kelly, D Young (G Cross 40), C Hamilton, F McKenzie, N Talei (S Newlands 36), R Grant, S McInally.

Connacht -- G Duffy; S Monahan (T Nathan 58), E Griffin (I Keatley 9), K Matthews, B Tuohy; M Nikora, F Murphy (C Willis 64); B Wilkinson, D Murphy, J Hagan (D Rogers 56), M Swift, M McCarthy, A Browne (B Upton 66), J O'Connor, J Muldoon.

Ref -- D Jones (Wales).

Irish Independent

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