PRO14 Round 3: Edinburgh 17-10 Connacht

A late withdrawal during the warm-up by standoff Simon Hickey threw Edinburgh’s preparations into a bit of a panic, but you wouldn’t have known it by the calmly assured manner that Jaco Van der Walt displayed in the first half of this physical encounter at BT Murrayfield.

Connacht came with a freewheeling reputation but it was Edinburgh who had most of the chances in the opening phases, the best of them when Matt Scott came within a few metres of a try following a Van der Walt break.

Now a team that backs themselves physically close in, early penalties that were perhaps at the edge of kicking range were sent to the corner rather than for three points.

Edinburgh didn’t get much return from those gambles though, as Connacht’s defence was pretty miserly although often on the wrong side of referee Ian Davies (and the ruck). But similarly, handling errors in possession were undoing the positive efforts of the hosts.

Matt Scott impressed with a range of kicks, dinks and passes that betrayed his origins as a 10 but the closest Edinburgh came to a try was when Hamish Watson was tackled just short of the line following a scything Blair Kinghorn break. From the ruck that ensued, skipper Jarrod Butler slapped at the ball but mostly hooked Henry Pyrgos’s arm as the scrum-half looked to spin it wide, a move that saw the Connacht openside receive a yellow card. Edinburgh opted for the scrum under the posts and with another penalty coming shortly thereafter, the ball made it left to Duhan Van Der Merwe who found space to get over in the corner.

A try, and justly deserved.

Unbowed with a man in the bin, Connacht put some strong carries together and worked their way deep into the Edinburgh 22 for their first real attack, until Hamish Watson relieved the pressure with a superb turnover clamped over the ball.

With his pack under pressure in the scrum, Connacht coach Andy Friend substituted young loosehead Conan O’Donnell after just 36 minutes to see if someone else could make a dent in WP Nel – now Willem, sans scrum cap – and under massive pressure the visitors duly came up with a big scrum by way of response and cleared the pressure themselves, but the scrums were to continue.

Not strictly entertaining, it was still an engrossing physical battle in both tight and loose, and Connacht looked like they might have done just enough to keep the scoreline as it was, until WP Nel got his own back and Ian Davies whistled up a scrum penalty duly kicked by the impressive Van der Walt.

Half-time: Edinburgh 10-0 Connacht

With more of the same in the opening exchanges of the second half – kicking, tackling and scrums – it wasn’t long before Connacht called for the cavalry in the shape of Bundee Aki and suddenly other players like Matt Healy sprung into life. As both sides tired, the broken field runners started to find holes for both sides.

Blair Kinghorn and Duhan Van Der Merwe contrived to make a hash of a clear two-on-one after patient forward play by their excellent pack – led by Stuart McInally – but the forwards got them out of Cockerill’s bad books moments later with 9-10 man maul. Pierre Schoeman came up with the ball after the men in navy rumbled over the line.

That was their last real scoring chance, but Connacht had some ideas of their own. Niyi Adeolokun’s try was perhaps against the run of territory and possession (and certainly the penalty count) but it put the visitors right back into contention in the last 20 minutes against a team that had lost their last two matches at the death.

More than a few Edinburgh fans would have been chewing fingernails, but toughing this one out as they did will perhaps put a slight gloss on a game that didn’t deliver on the promise of the first half.

The last fifteen minutes were entertaining, in a scrambly sort of way and as they tired, Edinburgh’s discipline started to falter too. The gap in penalty counts was still enough for Cockerill to blast the league’s organisers for failing to police the officiating standards afterwards; he has previous in that regard but it doesn’t make it any less true.

Connacht fans would probably argue they were over-penalised, while Edinburgh may have felt they weren’t penalised enough. As it was, Connacht took the final points of the game for a losing bonus that they probably deserved for their efforts, before Edinburgh ran the clock down to take their first win.

There will be plenty to work on ahead of the Leinster game next week.

Referee: Ian Davies (WRU)

SRBlog Man of the Match: Most of the pack were very good, including the tireless Stuart McInally. Luke Hamilton made a good fist of the first half and Hamish Watson might have just had a kid, but he’s still Hamish Watson! But for me Jamie Ritchie has picked up right where he left off last season, and was one of the few who shouldn’t bear responsibility for the second half slump. Alongside Blair Kinghorn, he kept battling all night.

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13 comments on “PRO14 Round 3: Edinburgh 17-10 Connacht

  1. Frazer on

    Tough game for Edinburgh again this week but the team looks strong and I expect a first win of the season.

    My main gripe this season so far is that most of Scotland’s fit players will be playing their second or third game already, whereas Leinster and Munster have barely played any of Ireland’s big players yet. I know it’s a question of squad depth but I still think the squad players ought to be given more game time to allow the Scotland players the most opportunity to remain fresh looking towards next Autumn.

  2. Nick on

    Good victory but Edinburgh really made that a lot harder than it could have been.

    ACCURACY!

    This is a game they should have put to bed ny half time. Dominant in possession and territory but still no sign of dealing with those high pressure situations. Apparently a problem right the way through Scottish professional rugby. So frustrating to watch.

  3. Neil on

    Anyone know the overall territory and possession stats ?

    Credit to Edinburgh, Connacht were brutal in the tackle and right up in our faces but we just kept matching them and dominating the game. (Just need the backline to Gel and have that killer instinct now)

    Despite the 2 losses its a pretty decent start and the win will bring alot of confidence to the team.

    Im quite happy all our top stars are starting at both Glasgow and Edinburgh .You dont play the 2nd and 3rd string players until the International windows… The teams put out by all sides except Munster and Leinster appear to be full strength also.

    The SRU have a policy of not being able to select certain players for more than 4 games in a row anyhow so Fatigued players should not be a problem and has not been in the past (bar Tommy Seymour post lions.)

  4. Rj on

    Important win last night and a decent performance overall I thought. The game should have been dead and buried by half time and we did manage to spurn some great chances. We need to be more clinical as the season goes on, starting next week or we will be punished.

    VdW did well at stand off for me, place kicking was very good and offered a decent threat in attack with one good line break springing to mind. One negative for me the apparent to rush to the cross field kick during penalty adv, we did this several times when it would have paid to be more patient and go through a few more phases. You are letting the opposition off the hook more times than not with that low percentage play.

    Forwards were excellent. Scrum was brutal at times against a decent scrummaging outfit and we had real dominance there and the rolling maul which is a real weapon for us now. Lineout was a bit of a shambles at times unfortunately.

    Finally, thought Bradbury had a great impact coming off the bench, carrying hard and looks as if he has bulked up a lot without losing any mobility which is great. He would start at 8 for me next week if Mata isn’t fit.

    Onwards and upwards.

  5. Sandy Smith on

    I thought Edinburgh came to play and choosing to go to the corner early doors rather than take the possible 3 PTS kind of backed that up. Connacht were woeful. We had such dominance in the scrum that the fact only one yellow card was issued is just a complete joke.

    In retrospect we should probably have kicked the penalties on offer early doors just to get the scoreboard moving and to.make Connacht actually try to play a bit.

    Jaco Van Der Walt had a good game and although I acknowledge it’s early days for Hickey I thought Jaco looked much more dangerous.

    Schoeman was immense again and I agree with Rory that Jamie Ritchie was MoM.

    It was also good to see Blair getting more involved as I’ve felt he was a little detached in the last two games and every time he got the ball v Connacht we looked likely to get something.

    Lineout stuttered a bit this week. Not sure why when we’ve had 100% up to now.

    Our scrum was nowhere near as good when WP and Schoeman went off. From where I was sitting Berghan spent most of the scrum time with his right knee on the ground.

    • Sandy Smith on

      Was he not right in what he said?

      15-3 penalty count In Edinburgh favour and two warnings about collapsing maul and scrum to Connacht without any follow up action?

      It also appears that refs in our last two games have admitted they made mistakes with crucial decisions that have probably cost Edinburgh 8 points.

      Calls it like he sees it in my opinion. Also makes sure to say that team have to bear some responsibility for not closing out games earlier.

      • Stu on

        You don’t bitch and moan about refs to the media, you deal with it via the channels in place.

        Whilst he might have a point, his whinging about poor wee Edinburgh is pathetic.

  6. The Chiel on

    Would have been much more comfortable if a couple of the early penalties had been kicked rather than going for the big 7 pointers. Much more good than bad, but still as has been said far too high an error count. But the Connacht defence was excellent.

  7. GavinB on

    Well done to grind it out, but Ididn’t like the policy of continual box kicks – usually directly to their best player.

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