Connacht Rugby v Edinburgh
Defending Guinness PRO12 champions, Connacht, proved too strong for Edinburgh as they recorded a 28-15 win over the visitors on a dreary night in Galway.
Acting Head Coach Duncan Hodge made seven changes to his side for the round five match, with international quartet WP Nel, Ross Ford, Grant Gilchrist and John Hardie all reintroduced to the starting forward pack.
The half-back pairing of Sean Kennedy and Jason Tovey – who returned to play after a spell out with a wrist injury – started, with Solomoni Rasolea also included at centre after being rested against Munster.
Both teams defied the poor conditions to put on an entertaining match, in which the sides opted to play a fluid, free-flowing style of rugby, much to the delight of the supporters.
The sides went tit-for-tat in the first half – with both Edinburgh and Connacht leading at some point – yet Connacht used their 18-10 lead at the interval as a springboard to open a 13-point gap which the visitors were unable to close.
Edinburgh Rugby Acting Head Coach Duncan Hodge, said: “We didn’t deserve to win the game; they were the better side on the night. We had chances close to their line and couldn’t convert, but there were some great efforts out there.
“That’s part of rugby; we’ve got to soak it up and get better and that’s what we’re about. That’s what we said we’re going to do, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
“There’s some pluses in there, but, as I say, the minuses are on the technical side and that’s what we’ve got to fix this week and get ready for another game. We’ve got a home game now and we need to win.
“I thought Connacht played well tonight and they were back to playing some of the stuff they played last year.”
A Tovey penalty put Edinburgh ahead after five minutes, yet the lead was short-lived as Connacht wing Niyi Adeolokun exploited a gap in the visitors’ defence to cross the whitewash just four minutes later.
Stand-off Jack Carty added the extras, before extending the lead further when he hit the target with a penalty kick on 16 minutes (10-3).
Tovey was again to the fore as he sniped through the Connacht defence before lifting the ball to captain Grant Gilchrist who bulldozed over the final defender to score.
Welshman Tovey added the extras to tie the game after 20 minutes (10-10).
Carty edged his side back in front with another successful kick from the tee, before lock Quinn Roux bundled over in the corner to give Connacht an 18-10 lead at the interval.
Half-time: Connacht 18 – 10 Edinburgh Rugby
The current league champions continued to build momentum at the start of the second-half with replacement Cian Kelleher scoring on 45 minutes, following sharp hands from his colleagues in the backline (23-10).
Edinburgh dug deep and took control of the game for the next 20 minute spell, with Damien Hoyland, Chris Dean and Tovey all making impressive individual breaks from inside their own half to put pressure on the opposition.
However, with the greasy conditions, handling errors cost Edinburgh when they were in a scoring position.
Edinburgh’s efforts were rewarded on 70 minutes when delightful handling – including a wonderfully executed pass through the legs from full-back Glenn Bryce – bought wing Michael Allen space out wide to run into the corner for the score.
Tovey’s conversion attempt fell victim to the blowing wind and struck the post (23-15).
The home side secured victory when they struck again eight minutes from time with a try from centre Peter Robb, who was the beneficiary of slick handling from his side.
Full-time: Connacht 28 – 15 Edinburgh Rugby