By John O’Sullivan 

 

Connacht were defeated 56-8 away to Edinburgh tonight in the United Rugby Championship. 

 

Despite establishing an 8-0 lead at the DAM Health Stadium, through a Peter Sullivan try and a Jack Carty penalty, the away team’s quest for three URC wins on the bounce was ended when the Scottish team scored eight unanswered, converted tries. 

 

Connacht’s next outing will be the home InterPro at home to Leinster on March 26th

 

With the artificial surface lending itself to a quick, expansive style of rugby, the opening exchanges saw both teams commit to running the ball, with Conor Oliver particularly impressing in this facet of the game for the away team. 

 

Connacht’s cause was helped when the home team’s number eight Mesu Kunavula was yellow-carded for a high tackle on Caolin Blade. The visitors didn’t take long to make their man advantage count when Carty – after a typically expansive move ended with Edinburgh being penalized for offside – coolly slotted a penalty to open the scoring at 3-0. 

 

The visitors were in the ascendancy for the majority of the opening half, but it took until past the twentieth minute, thanks to steely Edinburgh defence, for them to make it count on the try-scoring board. 

 

A beautiful sweeping move – with Carty and Tom Daly both lending their playmaking capabilities – moved the ball from left to right. Dave Heffernan then supplied the try assist to Peter Sullivan, whose step avoided the cover defence and saw him touch down for a deserved 8-0 lead. 

 

To their credit, the home team worked their way back into the contest near the half-hour mark and they opened their account for the evening when Emiliano Boffelli collected Blair Kinghorn’s offload and dove in the score to take the score to 8-7 in Connacht’s favour. 

 

The try seemed to revive the hosts and with renewed confidence, they scored another barely five minutes later. Kinghorn was once again integral, starting a move that ended with full-back Henry Immelman dotting down the ball that, with the added conversion, took the score to 14-8 in favour of Edinburgh. 

 

The Scottish team continued their momentum and they made it three tries in quick succession when Dave Cherry – the Scottish international hooker – touched down from close distance. Boffelli made it three conversions from three and Edinburgh held their 21-8 lead going into the interval. 

 

Edinburgh carried their try-scoring form into the second half and they registered their bonus point try just a minute after the half began. Kinghorn’s pass found Ben Muncaster and the flanker returned the favour and the fly-half ran in the try. Boffelli kept his 100% kicking record alive and the home team lead 28-8. 

 

Four tries soon became five for the hosts when Ramiro Moyano, the Argentinian international, was fed a pass by Kinghorn and he showed pace to run in for the try, which Boffelli converted to lengthen the hosts’ score to 35-8.

 

Edinburgh continued to pile on the pressure and they scored three more tries – through Boffelli, who also added three conversions, Glen Young and Ben Vellacott – to seal the win at 56-8.

 

Connacht team:

 

(15-9)

 

15: John Porch 

14; Peter Sullivan

13: Sammy Arnold

12: Tom Daly

11: Alex Wootton

10: Jack Carty © 

9: Caolin Blade 

 

(8-1)

 

8: Paul Boyle 

7: Conor Oliver 

6: Cian Prendergast 

5: Leva Fifita 

4: Oisin Dowling 

3: Jack Aungier 

2: Dave Heffernan 

1: Jordan Duggan 

 

Replacements: 

 

16: Shane Delahunt for Heffernan

17: Tietie Tuimauga for Duggan

18: Dominic Robertson McCoy for Aungier 

19: Niall Murray for Fifita

20: Abraham Papali’i for Boyle 

21: Kieran Marmion for Blade 

22: Tom Farrell for Wootton 

23: Jarrad Butler for Oliver

Senior coach Pete Wilkins praised the mentality of the Connacht squad after last weekend’s win over the DHL Stormers in the United Rugby Championship and ahead of Friday evening’s league trip to Edinburgh, kick-off 7:35 PM. 

 

The host’s 19-17 win – which was secured after trailing 17-7 early in the second half – was their second league win in succession and also the second game on the spin where they managed to be victorious after coming from behind. 

 

Wilkins believes that the Sportsground teams’ ability to back themselves and their processes, even when losing, is evidence of the growth and maturation of the squad.

 

“I think it was important for us to get the win from coming from behind,” the former Queensland Reds coach said. 

 

“It was a tight game that we came out on the right side of. It was only a few weeks ago that we were sitting here, lamenting some of those tight losses. 

 

“So I think the fact that two weeks in a row, from slightly different scenarios, that we have been able to see out two tight games is really important to show that there is growth in this team going on all the time.”

 

Wilkins expects an entertaining game against a quality Edinburgh side who sit fifth in the United Rugby Championship(URC) table, especially given the artificial surface at the Scots’ stadium.

 

“It is built for fast rugby,” he said of Edinburgh’s pitch at the DAM Health Stadium. 

 

“The players are excited about playing on it and excited, in the context of this weekend, of us being able to play on a fast pitch and getting our game on that kind of surface. But also the feeling of what might come for us down the tracks(with the stadium redevelopment).

 

“We have proved we can play decent rugby in any kind of conditions, but going to what is hopefully a dry Edinburgh with a decent 4G pitch, we’ll get a chance to do that.”

 

Meanwhile, back row Cian Prendergast praised the work of the Connacht pack in last weekend’s victory over the DHL Stormers. 

 

The visitors’ pack boasted an array of talented players, including Springbok international Steven Kitshoff at loose-head prop, but the home teams set-piece – with Tietie Tuimauga and Leva Fifita impressive – more than held its own. 

 

The Connacht forwards, Prendergast believes, playing so well was one of the factors that lead to their 19-17 win over the visiting South Africans. 

 

“Ultimately, especially our scrum, we thought it would be a big focus area for them, considering they have one of the – if not the – best loosehead props in the world, but we stood up to that challenge and it was a real positive for us as a group,” the 22-year-old said. 

 

Prendergast was recently selected in the Irish training camp for the ongoing Six Nations as a “development” player. 

 

The Kildare native loved the experience, but he knows that his form with his club team will dictate whether he gets back into the national team reckoning and that remains his priority. 

 

“It was an incredible experience,” he said. 

 

“I got to pick the brains of people in my position and see how they prepare for test matches and see what they do from week to week, how they prep for training, how they train, and how they conduct themselves. 

 

“It was a really good experience and I learned a lot from it.”

 

The blindside flanker expects a physical encounter on Friday against Edinburgh, a team whose artificial surfaced home pitch also lends itself to a quicker style of rugby, as Wilkins previously mentioned. 

 

Prendergast also believes that Connacht’s attack will need to be at its best in order to win, given the impressive defence of the Scottish team, but says his team’s chances of a win will be bolstered if they can retain the kind of discipline they showed in last weekend’s win. 

 

“Edinburgh are a really well-drilled side and they have a new coaching ticket now. They have a really structured defence and are really well-disciplined and they have an electric attack, if you give them space. 

 

“We have reviewed that. They have very powerful players in the back three, big physical backs, a good line out, they’re a good mauling side, they’re quite good in their 22 attack, which is an area for us to try and not give them access to. 

 

“It’s about discipline again, trying to build on what we did against The Stormers, in terms of how we gave away no offside penalties or penalties around the ruck, which is a huge one for us. 

 

“We’re just looking to build on that again and not give away those “red” penalties that Friendy calls them, the avoidable ones that are more effort ones than anything else.”

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