Edinburgh stay top with bonus-point win

The weather certainly didn’t dampen any spirits this evening as Edinburgh returned to Guinness PRO14 action in style, putting 41 points past Irish opponents Connacht in the first match back at BT Murrayfield in over a month.

The victory sees the capital club return to the top of Guinness PRO14 Conference B on 43 points - securing nine wins in 12 - with Cardiff Blues up next at BT Murrayfield next Friday night.

Two Simon Hickey penalties, a penalty try and a powerful score from Simon Berghan put Edinburgh 20-7 up at the break, before the visitors closed the gap thanks to two tries from fullback Tiernan O'Halloran.

The capital club pulled away in the second-half however as South African duo Pierre Schoeman and Duhan van der Merwe both scored to secure the bonus point with 58 minutes on the clock.

With two new props on the park in Murray McCallum and Dan Winning, the capital side provided the coup de grace with a powerful scrum in the 79th minute which saw the referee award the second penalty try of the evening to make it 41-14 on the night.

It was a harsh start for Connacht, as within five minutes, tighthead prop Finlay Bealham was stretchered off following a huge collision. This was quickly followed by a penalty won by Luke Crosbie, which Simon Hickey duly punted between the sticks to put the first points on the board for the capital side. [3-0]

It was setting up to be a gritty, difficult match, with the wet and windy weather doing no favours for ball-handling either, as both sides saw plenty of knock-ons and a series of ‘stop-start’ plays.

This was further emphasised by almost ten minutes of reset scrums and little momentum or ground gained by the boys. Eventually, the referee blew his whistle in Edinburgh’s favour and Hickey gladly stepped up for the penalty once more to put another three points on the board. [6-0]

Edinburgh looked to be finally getting into the swing of things again, with Matt Scott being the catalyst. From seemingly nowhere, the centre emerged from his own half, charging through Connacht territory with the opposition hot on his heels. Bulldozing his way through the last two defenders, it seemed he’d touched the ball down, but referee Marius Mitrea thought otherwise – with a potential knock-on being the point of discussion.

After a long period of analysis, Mitrea decided to award a penalty try, with Connacht stand-off Jack Carty being yellow carded in the process for a high tackle. [13-0]

Despite the rain coming down hard, and players skidding left, right and centre, Edinburgh were keeping their foot on the gas, with a series of daunting pushes towards the Connacht line – who were paying dearly for being a man down. Mike Willemse and Nic Groom made their own mark on the game with individual efforts towards the whitewash, but it would be Simon Berghan who took the spoils, as he managed to drive his way through a pile of bodies, following a try-line ruck – slamming the ball down for his first try of the season. Hickey continued his run of form with yet another successful kick to add the extra two points. [20-0]

Connacht had the final points of the first half though, after a series of scrums inches from Edinburgh’s line. Some admirable defence from Edinburgh’s forwards kept the opposition at bay, but only for so long. Tiernan O’Halloran found his way to wriggle through the mass of bodies between him and the line, and touched down for Connacht’s first try of the game, with Jack Carty adding the conversion. [20-7]

It was a shaky start to the second half, with a lot of the play being conducted worryingly close to the Edinburgh try-line. Sure enough, this frustrating period of tireless pressure ended in favour of Connacht, with Tiernan O’Halloran pouncing again with a drive over the line for his second try of the match, with Carty promptly adding the extras. [20-14]

The weather had eased off by now, but the contest was far from over, with both teams throwing bodies on the line to gain the upper hand. It was edge-of-the-seat material for the home supporters, as the hulking frame of Bill Mata brought Edinburgh just feet from the try-line. The forwards were instrumental in this drive over the final few metres, with Pierre Schoeman leading by example.

Sure enough, it was the Greatest Schoeman himself who took the glory, as he barraged his way through the Connacht defenders to crash down on the line for his first points of the season, and a third try of the game for Edinburgh. Hickey stepped up for the conversion once again, and sure enough, the extra points were secured just seconds later. [27-14]

Once Edinburgh find their flow it’s hard to stop them, and they were well in the mood for a bonus-point try by now. A lineout five metres from the try-line gave the forwards room to manoeuvre their way towards the line, but it would be the familiar sight of Duhan van der Merwe on the wing that would be the end point.

The ball found its way out of a ruck and along the back line, until George Taylor spun a pass out wide to the South African. Duhan did as he’s done six times already this season, scorching his way past the last defender and diving down over the try-line for the fourth of the match, with the familiar boot of Simon Hickey making the conversion. [34-14]

This wasn’t the end of the points haul for Edinburgh, as an extended period deep into the Connacht half culminated in a scrum just inches from the whitewash. Powerful drives forward from Murray McCallum and Dan Winning were the final nail in the coffin for the visitors as they forced another penalty try, putting another seven points on the board. With the final whistle going just two minutes later, the match drew to a close with a final score of 41-14.

This victory boosts Edinburgh’s unbeaten run at BT Murrayfield to an incredible nine matches with Cardiff Blues up next on Friday night.

live commentary 7:35 PM Friday 21 Feb 2020

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Kick-off 7:35 PM

Edinburgh

Connacht

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