NATHAN CHAMBERLAIN should definitely make a point of buying a lottery ticket on the 13th March next year because it is a day when things seem to go right for the stand-off, who turns 21 tomorrow.
Last year he scored three tries and 32 points in an astonishing 17-52 for Scotland Under-20s over Wales in the last elite level game of rugby played before lockdown.
That was going to take some beating, but he just about managed it here, with an injury time try which snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against a Connacht side who will feel they did enough to deserve the league points, even after losing their captain Jarrad Butler to a red card in the 57th minute.
This victory, which keeps alive the capital side’s faint hopes of qualifying for the Champions Cup next year, is the first success by a Scottish club against an Irish province in over a year.
It wasn’t pretty, but they all count, and with Glasgow Warriors also picking up a win against the Ospreys on Friday night, there is suddenly a bit more positivity about the Scottish pro game after a frustrating season in which both sides have fallen well short of the standards we have come to expect.
Gregor Townsend and his Scotland team will be hoping to make it three from three in their Six Nations clash tomorrow [Sunday] afternoon.
“The win’s obviously important for us,” said Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill. “The weather conditions were pretty horrific.
“I’m delighted the players stayed in the battle. We played quite poorly in the second half but we stuck in the fight.”
Cockerill is always been cautious about heaping too much praise on his young players, but did manage to acknowledge the contribution of his novice playmaker.
“Nathan is working really hard at his game,” he said. “He’s been put under pressure to perform and considering the conditions I thought he played really well.”
The visitors were immediately under pressure when Charlie Shiel’s box-kick clearance was charged down by Connacht second-row Gavin Thornbury, and it looked like the hosts had taken a second minute lead when Shane Delahunt peeled off the back of a line-out and rumbled over, but the try was chalked off because of a Jack Aungier obstruction on Pierre Schoeman.
The hosts kept their foot on the gas and took the lead with five minutes played when academy player Sean O’Brien marked his first start at this level by crashing over in the outside-centre channel, with Jack Carty adding the conversion.
With the fierce wind in their faces during the first 40-minutes, Edinburgh couldn’t escape their own half, and were not helped by Schoeman twice being penalised for collapsing the scrum.
That was until the 24th minute, when the Edinburgh front-row combined in spectacular style to split Connacht wide open. Tight-head prop Lee-Roy Atalifo’s wonderful inside pass sent hooker Mike Willemse clear, and then Schoeman appeared on the scene like a runaway train.
The Edinburgh loose-head was eventually brought down five yards from the try-line, and the attack faltered when Magnus Bradbury knocked-on following a loose pass from Chamberlain.
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Schoeman’s picked up a leg injury during the move and had to be replaced by fellow South African Boan Venter.
However, Edinburgh did take confidence from that attack, and were soon back in the strike zone when Chamberlain slipped his marker to carry the ball 30 yards up-field, leading to a close-range try for Bradbury a few phases later.
Chamberlain missed the conversion, meaning Edinburgh were still two points behind, but that would still have been a pretty outcome for a first half played into a howling gale.
However, Cockerill’s men couldn’t hold out against a ferocious Connacht onslaught during injury-time of that first period, with Delahunt burrowing over from a line-out drive and Carty nailing the extra two-points from the left touchline.
Even with the gap stretched to nine points at the break, the visitors will have fancied their chances with the wind at their backs during the second half. But they couldn’t harness the treacherous conditions, even after Jarrad Butler saw red when he tackled Andrew Davidson high and his shoulder made contact with the second-row’s head.
Not helped by near constant interruptions from referee’s whistle, which was compounded by a constant stream of dropped balls, Edinburgh just couldn’t get into any sort of flow.
Chamberlain finally narrowed the gap to six points with an offside penalty with just over 10 minutes left to play, but Connacht took a stranglehold of possession and it looked like the visitors were going to come up short.
Then, as the game entered overtime, Edinburgh finally managed to edge their way into their opponents 22, and Chamberlain grabbed his opportunity by slipping inside two tacklers and then rounding his third on the way to scoring under the posts, before adding the conversion to seal the win.
Connacht: A Wootton; B O’Donnell (O McNulty 66), S O’Brien, T Daly, M Healy; J Carty, K Marmion (C Blade 62); D Buckley (J Duggan 55), S Delahunt (J Murphy 58), J Aungier (C Kenny 55), N Murray, G Thornbury, C Prendergast (A Papali’i 49), J Butler, E Masterson.
Edinburgh: D Hoyland; J Blain (M Bennett 68), J Johnstone (M Bennett 62-68), G Taylor, E Sau; N Chamberlain, C Shiel (H Pyrgos 49); P Schoeman (B Venter 24), M Willemse, L Atalifo (A Williams 68), M Bradbury (A Davidson 69), A Davidson (J Hodgson 57), L Crosbie (M Kunavula 58), A Miller, V Mata.
Referee: Chris Busby (Ireland)
Connacht: Tries: O’Brien, Delahunt; Con: Carty 2.
Edinburgh: Tries: Bradbury; Pen: Chamberlain.
Scoring sequence (Connacht first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-5; 12-5; 14-5 (h-t) 14-8; 14-13; 14-16.
Red cards –
Connacht: Butler (57mins)