Guinness Pro12: Three talking points as Connacht edge Edinburgh
Guinness Pro12: Three talking points as Connacht are 14-13 winners against Edinburgh on Friday night
No winner in woeful encounter
Edinburgh’s opening-day win over Munster at Thomond Park raised some eyebrows. The Scottish club have been charged with a dramatic upturn in fortunes after another disappointing league season last time out, but the win came about through a poor Munster performance than spellbinding Edinburgh play. Off the back of that win, Connacht were expected to be an easy four points on the new hybrid pitch at BT Murrayfield Stadium, maybe even four as was the case when the two sides last met in the Scottish capital, albeit on a far inferior track. After leading for all but the final couple of minutes, Edinburgh have just cause to be distraught with how they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Several times they failed to capitalise on overlaps down the wing, there was a lack of intensity in the tackle and their kick-chase game morphed into a kick-watch game. The Edinburgh coaches insist that the preparation was thorough for Connacht’s visit both in attack and defence, they just didn’t take it out on to the field. Guilty as charged and the 23 men who graced the Gunners’ first home match of the season have some soul-searching to do ahead of next week’s trip to Swansea to take on the Ospreys. As with Edinburgh’s performance in Limerick in round one, Connacht did enough to be reluctant winners without doing anything special.
Backs problems continue for Irish province
Once again, it was a storming drive from their pack which saw them over the line. It’s the trademark that the Scots and South Africans would have been familiar with, especially with the Irish province’s demolition of Newport Gwent Dragons still relatively fresh in the mind. If their forwards are the driving force behind much of Connacht’s success, the backline again showed that it is one of the weakest in the PRO12. The handling errors across the 23 were numerous, butchered plays and missed opportunities aplenty, even if they weren’t as obvious to the casual observer. Pat Lam is building a backline spearheaded by Jack Carty and Kieran Marmion,a pair of 22-year-olds at half-back, while Robbie Henshaw continues to improve at centre. That’s not necessarily a bad thing and by no means unique in professional rugby, but there is a lack of leadership. For all Dan Park’s faults during his last season as a professional, the former Scotland international outside-half had experience of big-game rugby in bucketloads and could manoeuvre his team behind defences at will. The current partnerships are nowhere near that level and inaccuracy off the tee, whether from Darragh Leader or Carty, makes their task even harder. Former All Black Mils Muliaina may have been recruited in the summer, but how much game-time is he actually going to see when he returns from injury? Connacht still have some way to catch up to their noisy Irish neighbours, but while they may have won their opening two games, they are a long way off being dark-horse contenders for the top six.
Edinburgh frustrated by “ignorant” officiating
Surprisingly, it wasn’t a TMO decision which had the Gunners furious in the aftermath of a traumatic defeat. It probably wasn’t even that the referee was an Irishman by the name of Conway, but that his inexperience at top-flight rugby was clear for all to see. Instead of a fierce battle at the set-piece, the scrum was reduced to whistle-happy inactivity, which further incensed Edinburgh. Head coach Alan Solomons made clear in his post-match interview that he will review the entire match on Saturday morning and seek talks with the PRO12’s referee co-ordinator to clarify some areas—of course, this is the stock response from coaches seeking to stay on the side of the administrators. There is no doubt, however, that the mild-mannered South African will be as apoplectic as the rest of his coaching team, whose colourful cries of anguish could be heard clearly in the press box. The same was true from the Connacht coaching area. Scotland and Edinburgh hooker Ross Ford, captain for the day, was more forthright post-match as he struggled to keep his emotions in check and flirted with what he wanted to say rather than what is respectful to the match officials. No communication from the referee, despite attempts to discuss what issues the referee had. Former IRB elite referee Alain Rolland had an army of detractors but, as he enjoys retirement, there will be calls from some quarters for a swift return. After two outings as a PRO12 referee, Gary Conway is not making many friends.
Edinburgh: Jack Cuthbert; Sam Beard, Phil Burleigh, Andries Strauss, Nick McLennan; Tom Heathcote, Sean Kennedy; Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford (captain), John Andress, Fraser McKenzie, Ollie Atkins, Tomas Leonardi, Hamish Watson, Cornell du Preez.
Replacements: James Hilterbrand, Rory Sutherland, WP Nel, Anton Bresler, Mike Coman; Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Grayson Hart, Joaquín Domínguez.
Tries: du Preez
Pens: Heathcote (2)
Yellow card: WP Nel
Connacht: Darragh Leader; Niyi Adeolokun, Robbie Henshaw, Dave McSharry, Danie Poolman; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Nathan White, Mick Kearney, Quinn Roux, John Muldoon (captain), Willie Faloon, Eoin McKeon.
Replacements: Sean Henry, Finlay Bealham, Rodney Ah You, Aly Muldowney, George Naoupu; Ian Porter, Craig Ronaldson, Fionn Carr.
Pens: Leader (3)
Yellow card: Faloon
Referee: Gary Conway (IRFU)
Man of the Match: Cornell du Preez