Wednesday 21 March 2018

Laidlaw punishes Connacht's failure to make most of opportunities

Edinburgh 43 Connacht 10

Greig Laidlaw
Greig Laidlaw

Connacht crashed to their eighth defeat this season to remain at the foot of the Pro12 league after losing to an Edinburgh side that started slowly but grew in confidence thanks to the boot of Greig Laidlaw,

For Connacht it was a night of missed chances and poor discipline but there were glimpses of a side capable of playing stylish rugby but yet to learn how to finish.

A penalty by Laidlaw and a drop goal by Dan Parks marked a cautious start by both sides but when Connacht began to move the ball skilfully a break by Dave McSharry supported by Eoin Griffin ended with full-back Robbie Henshaw touching down in the corner, Parks adding the conversion for a 10-3 lead. A second Laidlaw penalty, however, ate into Connacht's lead.

Edinburgh, having recovered from a timid start, began to find their form and came close to scoring when Ross Rennie angled his run skilfully only to be stopped inches short of the line.

Inevitably Edinburgh's dividend came from the boot of Laidlaw, the scrum-half's third success reducing Connacht's lead to one.

Connacht looked on course for a second try when Kieran Marmion put Mick Kearney in the clear but a magnificent tackle by Cornell du Preez denied the big lock his moment of glory. Then when a Parks penalty attempt rebounded off the posts it was another missed chance for the visitors.

Edinburgh, having survived the Connacht offensive, launched their own all-out attack resulting in a try for winger Doug Fife and the conversion by Laidlaw to give the Scottish side a 16-10 half-time advantage.

It seemed Connacht would make immediate amends for squandering first-half points with crisp handling from set-piece possession that put Henshaw on a run to the line.

The full-back, however, was caught from behind by Edinburgh winger Fife and another chance was lost.

Edinburgh returned to the attack and came close to scoring when Laidlaw sent Fife on course for the corner. Connacht's defence was equal to the challenge but Edinburgh again derived points when the visitors handled in the ruck, allowing Laidlaw to kick his fourth penalty.

Parks had the chance to reply immediately but for the second time in the match his kick struck the upright. There was no such inaccuracy at the other end as Laidlaw maintained a perfect strike rate with his fifth penalty.

Connacht responded positively by putting pressure on Edinburgh from a driven line-out but the Westerners were unable to force their way over the line.

When replacement Craig Ronaldson cross-kicked the ball it just evaded the hands of Gavin Duffy and another chance went astray.

Edinburgh then showed how to garner points with breakaways by wingers Fife and Jack Cuthbert before flanker and man of the match Du Preez finished off the attack with a try in the corner, skilfully converted by Laidlaw.

There was still time for a further score, Nick de Luca intercepting a reckless pass on the Connacht line, leaving Laidlaw with the easiest of conversion kicks.

In a final statement De Luca broke clear before giving prop WP Nel the scoring pass, Laidlaw signing off the game with his fourth conversion and ninth goal to seal an eventually sumptuous win.

Edinburgh – G Tonks; D Fife, N De Luca, B Atiga (S Beard 67), J Cuthbert; H Leonard, G Laidlaw; A Dickinson (W Blaauw 65), A Lutui (J Hilterbrand), WP Nel (G Cross); O Atkins (S Cox 52), I van der Westhuizen; C Du Preez, R Rennie (R Grant 56), D Denton.

Connacht – R Henshaw (G Duffy 63); F Carr, E Griffin, D McSharry, M Healy; D Parks (C Ronaldson 52), K Marmion (F Murphy 65); R Loughney (D Buckley 50), S Henry (J Harris-Wright 50), N White (R Ah You 50); M Kearney, C Clarke; A Muldowney (J Muldoon 60), J Heenan, E McKeon (M Swift 68)

REF – L Hodges (WRU)

Irish Independent

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