Connacht maintain home momentum with try-bonus victory

Connacht’s Keith Matthews, who celebrated his 100th cap for the province, supported by Sean Cronin in Connacht’s victory over Edinburgh.

Connacht’s Keith Matthews, who celebrated his 100th cap for the province, supported by Sean Cronin in Connacht’s victory over Edinburgh.

Connacht take a rest from action this week with the A side taking on visiting Russians Enisei STM in two matches at the Galway Sportsground.

Nigel Carolan’s side took on the Russian outfit yesterday in the first of two fixtures - the second of which will be played on Saturday.

Most of Connacht’s bench and young emerging players are in action and will be looking to consolidate the form that saw them winners over their Leinster counterparts by 21 - 17 recently.

Some of those players could feature in Connacht’s next home match when they entertain Cardiff looking to record their seventh straight win at the Galway Sportsground. Last Friday that strong home form ensured Connacht saw off visitors Edinburgh by 27 - 23.

Connacht, who continue to play creative rugby at pace and with confidence, atoned for their previous slip-up in Italy. Not only did they take the four points, but bagged their third try-scoring bonus point this season. Fionn Carr, Connacht's leading try scorer, grabbed two, while Keith Matthews and substitute Adrian Flavin both made handsome contributions to mark their 100 caps each.

In an action-packed opening half in which five tries were scored, Carr opened within two minutes after fullback Gavin Duffy's counter-attack in opposition territory. Carr handled before No 8 Ray Ofisa’s superb offload in the tackle found the winger who crashed over.

Ian Keatly missed the conversion and thereafter mistakes crept in. Although Connacht played most of the rugby, they failed to build on that momentum, while Edinburgh outhalf Greig Laidlaw nailed a fourth minute penalty before adding the conversion to Scott Newland's 24th minute try in Edinburgh's first sustained attack.

Connacht continued to put themselves into scoring positions, but struggled to get over the line and had to settle for a 28th minute penalty. However a forward pass handed the initiative back to the Scots and centre James King sliced a hole through the central defence to race in from 22m. Laidlaw added the extras to open up a 17 - 8 lead, while at the other end Keatley failed with his 34th minute penalty attempt.

Connacht, however, got to grips with Edinburgh's rucking, and continued to play an expansive game. They were rewarded when Keatley, on the loop, found Brian Tuohy with a long pass. The right winger offloaded to the supporting Carr, who, without the ball, was tackled from behind from centre Nick De Luca. Italian referee Damarsco awarded the penalty try, which Keatley converted, and sent the offending Edinburgh player to the bin.

Five minutes later Connacht attacked up the right wing again. Troy Nathan and the ever-present Ray Ofisa handled before Gavin Duffy cut an inside line to supply Carr for his second, putting Connacht right back into contention.

Within two minutes of the restart Laidlaw potted a straight-forward penalty, and it took another 20 minutes before the stalemate was broken. With Connacht camped inside their opponents' half, a stolen Scottish line-out set up a series of drives, with Johnny O'Connor and Sean Cronin prominent. However it was Keatley's neatly executed chip that caught the defence and Duffy was in position to bag Connacht's fourth try. Keatley again missed the conversion and, when Laidlaw replied with a penalty, the Scots remained within striking distance and with the impetus.

Although Connacht struggled to clear their lines in the closing stages, their determined pack ensured they regained the initiative - a vital turnover on 75 minutes, a penalty from the resulting scrum, and another stolen line-out. For a brief moment it looked like Edinburgh would sneak it when Tim Visser escaped Duffy's tackle, but when No 8 David Denton was caught in possession and Scottish indiscipline cost them another 10 metres, Connacht survived another close-fought encounter.

Connacht: G Duffy, B Tuohy, T Nathan, K Matthews, F Carr; I Keatley, F Murphy, R Loughney, S Cronin, J Hagan, B Upton, M McCarthy, A Browne, J O'Connor, R Ofisa. Replacements, M McComish for Ofisa (62m ), B Wilkinson for Loughney 68m, R Ah You for J Hagan (73m ), A Flavin for Cronin (75m ),.

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