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Connacht and Edinburgh looking to bounce back

Guinness PRO12 Rugby Editor 6 Apr 2017
John Muldoon

Edinburgh host Connacht at Myreside on Friday April 6 at 7.35pm as ninth hosts seventh Round 19 of the Guinness PRO12.

Both Edinburgh and Connacht will welcome back their international players as they look to bounce back from losses to La Rochelle and Zebre Rugby respectively last time out.

What’s at stake?

An Irish victory on Scottish soil would all but end Edinburgh’s mathematical chances of reaching the Champions Cup play-off, depending on how Cardiff Blues do at Ulster.

Connacht, who currently occupy one of those play-off places, can put pressure on Glasgow Warriors who start the weekend 11 points better off in the Guinness PRO12 table.

Edinburgh team news

Acting head coach Duncan Hodge has made six changes for the clash with Connacht – a side that beat them 28-15 in late September.

After the loss to La Rochelle in the European Challenge Cup quarter-final, Hodge has made four changes to the back division.

With Blair Kinghorn on Scotland 7s duty in Hong Kong, Glenn Bryce steps in to replace him at full-back to link up with Damien Hoyland and the returning Rory Scholes in the back three.

Hodge has elected to change both half-backs from the European loss with Nathan Fowles and Duncan Weir coming in to steer the ship. Chris Dean and Phil Burleigh continue in the midfield.

Ben Toolis has shaken off a back injury to be fit to return to the second row where he will be joined by Fraser McKenzie.

Replacement Stuart McInally will make his 100th appearance for the club should he come off the bench at Myreside.

Connacht team news

Head coach Pat Lam has made seven changes to the side that were beaten in Italy last time out.

Tiernan O’Halloran returns at full-back to make his 100th appearance in the Guinness PRO12 with Danie Poolman and Niyi Adeolokun – who has recovered from a niggle – flanking the centurion in the back three.

Eoin Griffin starts alongside Bundee Aki in the midfield after returning from injury off the bench last weekend.

Kieran Marmion comes in to start at scrum-half with Steve Crosbie earning his second start for Connacht in the No.10 jersey.

Eoin McKeon on the blindside and Jake Heenan on the openside combine with captain John Muldoon in the back row.

And Dominic Robertson-McCoy replaces Finlay Bealham at tighthead.

Talking points

Acting head coach Duncan Hodge lamented Edinburgh’s error count last week but backed his side to bounce back at Myreside.

“We played a lot of good rugby last week, but once again a lack of consistency and high error count marred our ability to dominate the game for long periods. We’re continuing to work hard on cutting out such costly mistakes as we search for a full 80-minute showing,” said Hodge.

“We want to provide a good performance for our home support, and need the basics of our game to be in order with an attitude and intensity to match. That will give us the platform we need, and help us control the game.

“Connacht will be hungry to bounce back from their defeat to Zebre, but we hold home advantage and want to make that count tomorrow night.”

Ahead of the clash, head coach Pat Lam said: “This is our third away game in a row and after last week’s game in Italy, we have an opportunity to produce a performance we can be proud of.

“Although we have been creating numerous opportunities to score, it is all about making sure we take those chances tomorrow night.

“Edinburgh are always tough, physical opposition and we are looking forward to a big challenge on our first visit to Myreside.”

Lions Watch: Hamish Watson

Scotland openside flanker Hamish Watson has impressed pundits and fans alike with his RBS 6 Nations performances this season.

And his tireless work at the breakdown and with ball in hand in Edinburgh’s loss last week will have impressed Lions selectors.

In Connacht’s John Muldoon, Watson will have a powerful ball carrier to stop but the Scot will be confident he can produce yet another stand out performance.

Key battle: Nathan Fowles v Kieran Marmion

Nathan Fowles comes back into the Edinburgh side after replacing Sam Hidalgo-Clyne following their European defeat last week and will do battle with the in-form Kieran Marmion.

Marmion, in his 118th appearance for the Irish province, will hope to be at his probing best as Connacht look to bounce back from a disappointing performance in Italy.

Marmion’s role is especially important this week as he partners the inexperienced fly-half Crosbie in the half-backs, his tactical nausea and kicking game could prove vital in taking the burden off Crosbie’s shoulders.

Key stat

Edinburgh have lost their last six Guinness PRO12 encounters since losing to Zebre in Parma on 31 December.

Did you know?

Connacht have slipped to back-to-back away defeats in the Guinness PRO12 at Glasgow and at Zebre, but did win twice in Scotland last season, over Edinburgh at BT Murrayfield and against Leinster in the Guinness PRO12 final at the same venue.

Edinburgh top points scorer: Duncan Weir 93points Top try scorer: Magnus Bradbury 5

Connacht top points scorer: Jack Carty 70points Top try scorer: Niyi Adeolokun 6

Overall Guinness PRO12 head to head record:
Played 28, Edinburgh won 14, Connacht won 12 and 2 games drawn.

At Myreside, 7.35pm Live on TG4 and BBC Alba
Referee: Dan Jones (WRU, 7th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Sean Brickell (WRU), Kevin White (SRU)
Citing Commissioner: Douglas Hunter (SRU)
TMO: Alan Falzone (FIR)

Connacht hold on to narrowly beat Edinburgh Rugby

Charlie Bennett 7 Apr 2017

Edinburgh Rugby’s frustrating Guinness PRO12 run continued as they slipped to a seventh straight league defeat despite a brave fightback against Connacht.

The Irish side returned to form after back-to-back away league defeats at Glasgow Warriors and Zebre, with fly-half Steve Crosbie a menace off the tee, scoring 17 points, while Eoin McKeon touched down for an all-important try..

But it could have been so different for Edinburgh who scored three tries in the final 20 minutes thanks to a penalty score, Hamish Watson and Glenn Bryce but it proved too little too late as Duncan Weir missed the vital kick off the tee to level things late on.

Edinburgh dominated the opening quarter of the game but failed to turn possession and territory into points as Connacht held firm under pressure.

Weir had the first opportunity to open the scoring after just four minutes but the Edinburgh man missed his shot at goal, while Connacht went ahead after eight minutes as Crosbie landed his effort.

The Irish side, attempting to recover from their defeat in Italy last time out, spent much of the first half on the back foot, desperately absorbing Edinburgh pressure.

And so it was a real surprise on 26 minutes when Connacht doubled their lead and went 6-0 ahead as Crosbie added his second penalty of the evening.

It got worse for Edinburgh on the half hour mark as in-form Kieran Marmion, orchestrating Connacht’s first trip into the Scottish side’s 22, created an opening for McKeon to stroll through unopposed under the posts – Crosbie added the extras.

Edinburgh should have got a foothold back in the game after 34 minutes but Weir, who seemed short of confidence and form, failed to convert a straightforward shot at goal after Connacht indiscipline.

Connacht further added to their first-half score as Crosbie once again punished Edinburgh’s errors to give the Irish side a 16-0 lead at the break.

The Scottish side were again penalised at the breakdown after 49 minutes and Crosbie did the business off the kicking tee to make the score 19-0.

Crosbie was now single-handily ensuring Edinburgh faced a mountain to climb in the final quarter as he racked up yet another penalty on the hour.

But Edinburgh finally got on the scoreboard after 63 minutes as they were awarded a penalty try, with Connacht’s Tiernan O’Halloran yellow carded in the build-up and Weir adding his first successful kick off the tee.

And then just three minutes later the game turned as Edinburgh’s Watson produced a trademark rumble through the Connacht defence to score under the posts, with Weir again adding the extras to make it 22-14.

Connacht were now wobbling under pressure and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne found Bryce on the blindside flank, with the full-back barging over for the score to bring Edinburgh back to within two points.

Weir’s shot at goal from out on the touchline went agonisingly wide, and the Scots could not close the three-point deficit in the closing few minutes.

The Guinness PRO12 Final takes place on May 27 at Aviva Stadium, Dublin. 
Fans can guarantee their place by booking their tickets via www.ticketmaster.ie

Further information: www.pro12rugby.com/final