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Edinburgh 26 Connacht 37: Blade slashes Edinburgh defence to ribbons as capital side fall to sixth successive defeat

Mike Willemse scores Edinburgh's third try against Connacht at Murrayfield.
Mike Willemse scores Edinburgh's third try against Connacht at Murrayfield.

Edinburgh plunged to their sixth defeat in succession and their third in as many Guinness PRO14 games as they were uncharacteristically cut to pieces by a fast-running and inventive Connacht side.

Prompted by man of the match Caolin Blade at scrum-half, the western Irish province scored five tries to Edinburgh’s four, and the result was not in doubt after the quick-fire three scores in the first half.

The home side were missing their international contingent, but there were enough experienced hands out there to make the defensive lapses unacceptable, and head coach Richard Cockerill has a massive job on his hands to raise morale.

“We have to find out why we’re far too easy to score against,” said the head coach. “They did some good things but we were caught too often with kicks in behind which we should have covered.

“We still did some good things ourselves and scored four tries but clearly we cant be giving up scores the way we’ve been doing in the last few weeks.”

Connacht had won just one win away from Galway in 11 months coming into the game and were missing talisman Bundee Aki but they were clearly better side on a crisp cool night at Murrayfield.

Connacht opened with an early penalty, but Edinburgh seemed to have everything under control after a try in eight minutes.

They drove a lineout in the 22 to the line with the front row each having a pop before Nic Groom darted under a tackler to score from close range, van der Walt converting.

But that was the last bit of slick work from the home side for half an hour as Connacht slashed through for three excellent tries in just 14 minutes.

Scrum-half Blade struck first with a brilliant solo chip and chase from loose lineout ball up the blindside, and then stand-off Connor Fitzgerald’s pinpoint kick gave wing Sammy Arnold the score in the opposite corner.

Fitzgerald and Arnold both had to leave injured but Connacht were undeterred, full-back John Porch’s blistering pace up the left opening the gap for wing Alex Wooton to finish a 60-metre score.

Edinburgh were denied an Eroni Sau score when the TMO spotted an obstruction in the build-up and Tom Daly added a penalty for the visitors, but the shell-shocked home side did drive over another lineout for Mike Willemse’s try, van der Walt’s conversion reduced the deficit to 23-14 at the break.

Edinburgh again struck first in the second 40 with a third successful lineout drive for a second Willemse try, but as in the first half Connacht responded with invention and intent and Blade at the centre of it, Wooton’s second try and a close range score from hooker Shane Delahunt taking them 18 points clear.

Andrew Davidson got Edinburgh’s bonus point try under the posts, but they needed another two in the seven minutes left and couldn’t manage another one for at least a losing bonus point.

Edinburgh: Jack Blain; Eroni Sau, James Johnstone, Chris Dean, Jamie Farndale; Jaco van der Walt, Nic Groom (capt); Pierre Schoeman, Mike Willemse, WP Nel; Lewis Carmichael, Andrew Davdison; Magnus Bradbury, Ally Miller, Mesu Kunavula.

Replacements: Dave Cherry, Jamie Bhatti for Schoeman 72, Murray McCallum for Nel 56, Jamie Hodgson for Carmichael 72, Connor Boyle for Miller 66, Henry Pyrgos for Groom 56, Nathan Chamberlain, George Taylor for Dean 65.

Connacht: John Porch; Sammy Arnold, Tom Farrell, Tom Daly, Alex Wooton; Connor Fitzgerald, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Jack Aungier; Eogan Masterson, Gavin Thornbury; Paul Boyle, Jarrad Butler (capt), Abraham Papali’i.

Replacements: Jonny Murphy for Delahunt 69, Paddy McAllister for Buckley 50, Dominic Robertson-McCoy for Aungier 50, Cian Prendergast for Thornbury 74, Conor Oliver for Papali’I 50, Colm Reilly for Blade 74, Peter Robb for Fitzgerald 28, Tiernan O’Halloran for Arnold 22.

Ref: Adam Jones (WRU)

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