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Dublin: 15 °C Thursday 22 August, 2019
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5 talking points after Connacht slip to home defeat against Edinburgh

Home defeat, Aki on form again, first-half failings and set-piece issues.

CONNACHT WERE BEATEN 16-13 by Edinburgh at the Sportsground this evening. Read our full match report here.

Set-piece see-saw

THE SET-PIECE was always going to be vital on an evening such as we had in Galway, and Edinburgh edged that particular battle. While Connacht earned a penalty try at the scrum, second-half penalty concessions in that area were costly.

Darragh Leader dejected after the game Darragh Leader and Connacht were left disappointed. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Referee Leighton Hodges was particularly unhappy with the home side’s efforts in binding, and Edinburgh scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne was only too happy to punish the infringements.

At the line-out, Tom McCartney again threw bravely in horrible weather, but Edinburgh read the calls to the front well and either picked off the ball or spoiled what should have been Connacht’s primary source of possession.

Hodges drew the ire of the home support, but Connacht needed to manage the set-piece with more composure.

Discipline

It wasn’t just at the set-piece where Hodges sparked booing from the home crowd, as Connacht were penalised at the breakdown on a number of occasions.

Finlay Bealham yellow carded by referee Leighton Hodges Finlay Bealham is yellow carded late on. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Replacement prop Finlay Bealham found himself in the sin bin for the final 10 minutes of the encounter after he failed to roll away, the victim of a build-up of offences on Connacht’s part.

Lam referenced that lack of discipline immediately after the game, saying that a number of his players would be disappointed over their failure to stay on Hodges’ good side.

Aki picks up where he left off

Pat Lam’s side naturally struggled to build a cohesive attack in the wet, windy conditions, but Bundee Aki was again a source of go-forward possession.

Bundee Aki receives the Man of the Match award Aki was man of the match in Galway. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The former Chiefs man was in sparkling form on New Year’s Day against Munster and backed that performance up with another abrasive, hard-working showing. While there were no big clean breaks, Aki made metres with every single carry.

Defensively, his aggression is apparent too. His combination with Robbie Henshaw for a huge hit on Phil Burleigh eventually led to the penalty try just before half-time. Connacht have a pair of centres that many teams across Europe surely envy.

Aki did sustain a late ankle injury, although Lam said the province will need time to assess its severity.

The opening half

There was a strange sense of reversal for Connacht this evening, as they were forced to play against the wind in the second half, whereas their win over Munster on New Year’s Day had seen the conditions in their favour after the break.

General view of the bad conditions during the game The weather was unhelpful but Connacht needed a bigger half-time lead. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Simply put, Connacht needed to get more points from the first-half, or at least enjoy a bigger lead. Conceding a try to Edinburgh number eight Dave Denton was not part of the plan, and a 13-7 half-time scoreline left them in a weaker position than they would have planned for.

As it transpired, Lam’s men failed to get on the scoreboard in the second period and came to rue those first-half inefficiencies.

Home run at an end

A top-six finish is priority number one around the Sportsground – defeat for the Scarlets in Glasgow this evening was certainly helpful in that regard – but Connacht have placed great store in their home record too.

Edinburgh celebrate at the final whistle Edinburgh are in the hunt for a top-six finish. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Still, they finish this block of Pro12 games in sixth position, and have a five-point cushion above Edinburgh, who move into seventh on account of that Scarlets’ loss in Scotland. Connacht’s next Pro12 game sees them travel to play the Scarlets on 15 February; another crucial clash.

Whatever about those top-six ambitions, the disappointment of losing in front of a crowd of 5,267 at the Sportsground will sting over the next week or so, before Exeter Chiefs come to town in the Challenge Cup on Sunday week.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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