CONNACHT REMAIN ROCK bottom of the RaboDirect Pro12 after a 43-10 defeat in Edinburgh, with three tries conceded in the last seven minutes alone.
It was the home side who drew first blood, with captain Greig Laidlaw slotting an eighth minute penalty after Connacht were caught offside. Pat Lam’s side conjured an almost immediate response though when Dan Parks slammed over a drop goal from 30 metres out to make it 3-3.
In the 15th minute, Connacht burst into the lead when a superb passage of handling that started at the halfway line ended with Robbie Henshaw scoring, a timely try for the man who signed a new two-year contract during the week. The reliable Parks converted to give Connacht a 10-3 lead.
A Laidlaw penalty reduced the deficit, before flanker Ross Rennie almost had Edinburgh in front when he made a clean line-break. However, Connacht’s desperate defence managed to hold him up over the try-line and eventually clear the ball.
Laidlaw punished Connacht for coming offside again to make it 10-9, as Jake Heenan was forced off the injured. Parks then hit the right post with his penalty attempt just after Mick Kearney had come close to scoring a try.
Laidlaw was guilty of a missed penalty attempt of his own two minutes later, but Dougie Fife was on hand to finish a sustained period of Edinburgh pressure just before half time. The try began with a quick-tap from Laidlaw, who then slotted the conversion for a 16-10 half-time lead.
Connacht captain Craig Clarke looks to make inroads. ©INPHO/Russell Cheyne.
The interval seemed to take the wind from the sails of both sides and there was a lull in attacking ambition, before Laidlaw stretched the home lead to 19-10 in the 51st minute. Parks then had the chance to help Connacht bounce back, but he struck the right-hand upright for the second time with his penalty.
Lam’s men failed to roll away from the tackle in the 59th minute and that allowed Laidlaw to knock over his fifth penalty of the game for 22-10 in Edinburgh’s favour. Henshaw continued to battle physically in midfield before being replaced by Gavin Duffy with 15 minutes left.
However, it was Edinburgh who grew as the the fixture entered the closing stages and a powerful passage of play involving Jack Cuthbert and Laidlaw allowed blindside Cornell du Preez to barge over. The influential Laidlaw converted to put his side 29-10 up and end any Connacht hopes of a late surge.
Nick de Luca rubbed salt in the away side’s wounds as he intercepted a risky Connacht pass just in front of their own try-line. There was some controversy as to whether the Scotland centre had grounded the ball, but without the use of TMO, the score was awarded and Laidlaw converted.
De Luca cut through the Connacht defence just a minute later to put prop WP Nel over for the bonus point try and Lam’s men were on the receiving end of a 43-10 scoreline after Laidlaw converted. A hugely disappointing second half performance from Connacht, whose season is going from bad to worse.