The promise of the victories against Ulster and Zebre were drenched in the Murrayfield rain tonight in front of 4,171 spectators as Edinburgh Rugby, out-scored two tries to nil, succumbed to their Irish visitors.
Greig Laidlaw’s boot, landing eight penalties from nine attempts to move up to second in Edinburgh’s all-time RaboDirect PRO12 points’ scorers, had seemed set to keep the home team in front, but their lack of incision or the ability to exploit the two occasions when Connacht had men in the sin-bin was disappointing.
A familiar foe for home fans, Dan Parks, who was so often the nemesis when he was in Glasgow colours, repeated the dose for his new club tonight, supplying 19 points from goal kicks, maximising every little bit of possession Connacht enjoyed.
A squint lineout throw from Connacht went unpunished from the debutant Welsh referee and Connacht soon had the first points on the board as the hosts were deemed at fault at breakdown for Parks to land a third minute penalty.
The same offence at the opposite end of the park saw Laidlaw level (3-3, 5 mins), indicative of a fractured opening, underlined by two free-kicks and a penalty to Edinburgh at scrum time, which saw Laidlaw nudge Edinburgh ahead (6-3, 16 mins).
Tim Visser, demonstrating commendable willingness to get involved at this point, came off his wing to set up Laidlaw’s third penalty (9-3, 25 mins) and an audacious high ball take on the run by Tom Brown, hinted that the entertainment factor might be set to escalate.
Another Connacht offence saw Laidlaw pop over his fourth penalty – a longer-range effort from the right (12-3, 29 mins) – but having seen little ball in the preceding quarter of an hour, Connacht contrived a try from a seemingly innocuous position, back-row forward Mick Kearney dotting down.
Parks' conversion brought the score to 12-10 after 33 minutes.
Parks’ return to Murrayfield had been relatively uneventful in the first-half but when he was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on on his own 22, Laidlaw made it five from five (15-10, 36 mins).
But, with Sean Cox lectured by the referee for a misdemeanour in first-half stoppage time, Gavin Duffy took over the kicking duties successfully in his stand-off’s absence, a bad score for Edinburgh to concede.
Half-time: Edinburgh Rugby 15 Connacht 13.
An offence surely more deserving of a yellow card, slowing up ball at a ruck inside the Connacht 22, saw Mr Thomas take no action as the second-half restarted, other than to award a penalty.
Edinburgh should have scored off Matt Scott’s superb break but Ben Atiga’s pass to Hamish Watson left a lot to be desired. Laidlaw missed the kick and a golden chance was lost.
That entire passage of play was compounded five minutes later as the returning Parks landed a penalty (Edinburgh 15 Connacht 16, 48 mins).
It was far too casual from Edinburgh at present and Parks’ struck again to extend the visitors’ lead (15-19, 52 mins).
Edinburgh went through the phases on the restart with a bit more conviction and when Connacht slowed up ball again at breakdown, their tight-head prop Ronan Loughney was sin-binned as Laidlaw knocked over the goal. (18-19, 54 mins).
A thumping Geoff Cross drive set up a close-range scrum for Edinburgh. When it eventually set, on the hour, Connacht were penalised for dropping and Laidlaw, sensibly, made it penalty number seven (21-19) rather than risking another scrum decision.
The ping-pong continued, Parks dropping a goal (21-22) and Laidlaw replying with his eighth penalty (24-22) before Parks miscued from the right with just under ten minutes remaining.
If that was supposed to be the catalyst for Edinburgh to raise their game, it didn’t happen.
It was oh-so cagey with the hosts seemingly intent on holding what they had but when a grubber kick was stabbed through on the surface, neither Brown nor Laidlaw could douse the threat, Connacht hacked on and from the goal-line ruck and full-back Robbie Henshaw pounced for the killer try.
Parks converted and, to add salt in the wounds, landed his fourth penalty with the clock beyond the 80.
Edinburgh Rugby: Greig Tonks; Lee Jones, Matt Scott, Ben Atiga, Tim Visser; Piers Francis, Greig Laidlaw captain; Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford, Geoff Cross, Grant Gilchrist, Sean Cox, Stuart McInally, Hamish Watson, Netani Talei. Subs: Steve Lawrie, Robin Hislop, John Yapp for Cross (72 mins), Perry Parker, Rob McAlpine, Sean Kennedy, Harry Leonard for Francis (56 mins) and Tom Brown for Tonks (13 mins).
Connacht: Robbie Henshaw; Danie Poolman, Eoin Griffin, Brian Murphy, Gavin Duffy captain; Dan Parks, Kieran Marmion; Brett Wilkinson, Adrian Flavin, Ronan Loughney, Michael Swift, Mike McCarthy, Mick Kearney, John Muldoon, George Naoupu. Subs: Ethienne Reynecke for Flavin (52) Rodney Ah You for Wilkinson (59), JP Cooney, Andrew Browne for Kearney (69) Mata Fifita for Muldoon (71), Paul O’Donohoe, Miah Nikora and Fetu’u Vainikolo for Griffin (63).
Referee: Rhys Thomas (Wales)
RaboDirect man of the match: Greig Laidlaw
|11||Gavin Duffy (captain)|
|17||Rodney Ah You|
|5||Neath Swansea Ospreys||22||14||7||1||62|
|11||Newport Gwent Dragons||22||6||16||0||28|
|12||Zebre Rugby *||22||0||22||0||7|
* A points deduction has been applied.