A LATE Duncan Weir try was the difference as Edinburgh claimed their sixth consecutive PRO14 victory in rain-lashed Galway.
The game had barely started when the visitors bagged their first score of the evening as Dougie Fife broke Stuart Hogg’s record for the fastest ever league try by touching down after just 10 seconds of play. Jaco van der Walt’s touchline conversion strayed wide of the uprights as heavy rain limited opportunities for both sides in the opening quarter.
That didn’t stop Connacht playing, though, and the home side struck back with two quick-fire tries of their own after van der Walt’s seventh-minute penalty.
Full-back Tiernan O’Halloran cut a superb line through the Edinburgh defence after latching onto Eoin McKeon’s inside ball before speeding over the line for Connacht’s opening score. Jack Carty’s conversion brought the hosts to within one point of Richard Cockerill’s men, and the hosts wasted no time in taking the lead through a Tom Farrell try just five minutes later. Another Carty conversion from in front of the sticks and suddenly Edinburgh were 14-8 in arrears.
The conditions deteriorated throughout the half, making attacking chances almost impossible. When Edinburgh did manage to put the ball through the hands, they executed their chances superbly.
Cockerill’s side, captained by second-row Grant Gilchrist, hit back soon after the 20-minute mark through winger Duhan van der Merwe. The South African burst down the blind-side following slick hands from Chris Dean and Blair Kinghorn, and staved off desperate Connacht cover defence to touch down.
Connacht had the upper hand for the duration of the half though and got their just rewards on the stroke of half-time when Edinburgh scrum-half Nathan Fowles was penalised for a side entry. Carty slotted the penalty to give his side a 17-13 lead at the break.
Carty missed a golden opportunity to extend the lead eight minutes into the second period after missing a straightforward penalty.
The hosts were further disappointed when McKeon fumbled Eoin Griffin’s pass as they tried to execute a two-on-one.
Van der Walt reduced the deficit to a solitary point with a penalty after a period of sustained pressure in the Irish 22, which could have resulted in more had it not been for Villiame Mata’s knock-on.
If Edinburgh were buoyed by the apparent turning of the tide, they quickly undid van der Walt’s efforts to give Connacht the advantage.
Fowles gave away a careless penalty for a block on replacement fly-half Craig Ronaldson, which helped Connacht to kick to within yards of the Edinburgh line. A driving maul and subsequent pick-and-go efforts resulted in prop Finlay Bealham barging over from close-range to score. Crucially, Ronaldson’s conversion was pushed wide, giving Edinburgh one last chance to snatch victory.
Having come on for van der Walt, Duncan Weir made an outstanding contribution to get the visitors back onto the front foot with a series of probing kicks through the Connacht defence, earning vital territorial gains.
The fly-half got the visitors to within three points with a penalty 10 minutes from time and then into the lead by charging down Ronaldson’s attempted clearance before hacking on to slide over for a try.
Weir’s subsequent conversion and final minute penalty secured the win for Edinburgh, consolidating their third place in Conference B and boosting their chances of reaching the play-offs.
Connacht: T O’Halloran; N Adeolokun, E Griffin, T Farrell, M Healy; J Carty, C Blade; D Buckley, T McCartney, F Bealham; G Thornbury, Q Roux, E McKeon, J Butler, S O’Brien. Subs used: D Heffernen, D Coulson, D Robertson-McCoy, J Cannon, C Ronaldson, D Leader.
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; D Fife, M Bennett, C Dean, D van der Merwe; J van der Walt, N Fowles; D Marfo, N Cochrane, S Berghan; B Toolis, G Gilchrist, M Bradbury, J Hardie, W Mata. Subs used: J Lay, WP Nel, L Carmichael, C Du Preez, D Weir, P Burleigh.
Connacht: Tries: O’Halloran, Farrell, Bealham; Cons: Carty 2; Pens: Carty.
Edinburgh: Fife, van der Merwe, Weir; Cons: Weir; Pens: van der Walt, Weir 2.
Scoring sequence (Connacht first): 0-5; 0-8; 5-8; 7-8; 12-8; 14-8; 14-13; 17-13 (h.t); 17-16; 22-16; 22-24; 22-26; 22-29
Referee: G Clancy