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Neither Side Satisfied As Donnelly Kicks Connacht To Draw

jmcconnell 26 Oct 2007

A brace of second half kicks from Tim Donnelly secured a draw for Connacht against Edinburgh at the Sportsground, but while Michael Bradley’s men had enough dominance after the break to claim a much-needed win, the Scottish visitors were also left kicking themselves as they lost their grip on a 14-3 lead.

Edinburgh coach Andy Robinson, who is still without a win since his move north of the border, admitted there was "a huge amount of frustration" in the visitors’ dressing room afterwards.

The Scots fielded three debutants in total, including impressive fly-half David Blair, who was playing alongside his brother, Scotland scrum half Mike, for the first time ever.

The Blairs settled quickly behind a pack which caused Connacht more than a few problems with driving mauls. It was one such maul effort which helped Robinson’s side open the scoring in the seventh-minute.

Stand-in captain Allister Hogg rejected a penalty shot at the posts in favour of a kick to touch. Craig Hamilton secured possession at the lineout and former Leinster lock Ben Gissing piled over the try line at the back of a well-fashioned drive.

Number 10 Blair added the icing with a fine touchline conversion kick and Edinbugh were 7-0 to the good. Hands in the ruck, five minutes later, allowed Donnelly to boot a penalty in reply for Connacht.

Edinburgh continued to look the more potent, with their returning Scotland World Cup players clearly eager to impress their new boss, but their discipline let them down at times and an increased penalty count allowed Donnelly to kick the hosts downfield.

But Edinburgh went 14-3 in front just coming up to the half-hour mark and their second converted try came from a rare Donnelly error. He failed to find touch and the ball was run back by Hugo Southwell whose delicate chip over the top was fumbled by the home defence.

The Scots sensed something and thanks to a lovely pick up by Hogg, Ross Ford had the space to burst forward and although Blair struggled with the pass, the scrum half did enough to find the supporting Nick De Luca who made the corner.

David Blair followed up with his second successful conversion. Then a moment of inspirational running from Ireland utility back Gavin Duffy who ran back a 22-metre drop out with ease, beating prop Craig Smith and haring into a gap before he was hauled down just short of the Edinburgh whitewash.

Connacht managed to recycle the ball quickly for tighthead prop Robbie Morris to crash and although Donnelly missed the extras, Bradley’s side were very much back in the game at 14-8.

The second half saw a vast improvement in Connacht’s play, but points were hard to come by as Edinburgh’s clever defending, particularly out wide with Simon Webster and Andrew Turnbull, cut down on the space available.

A handling offence at a ruck allowed Donnelly the chance to make it a three-point game and the Australian, the most clinical place-kicker in the league before this weekend’s round of matches, duly obliged.

On 69 minutes, Donnelly levelled the game much to the delight of the home support as Edinburgh’s indiscipline at the breakdown began to hurt them on the scoreboard.

The pressure grew on the Scots as with fit-again captain Andrew Farley on the field for the closing stages, Connacht looked to steal what would have been a valuable victory.

Donnelly tried his luck with two drop goal attempts but both were unsuccessful – the first blocked and the second to the right and wide – and in a dramatic last play of the match, Edinburgh thought they had pinched it when a scuffed drop goal attempt from David Blair looked to have gone over the bar.

Video replays suggested otherwise but the Edinburgh players were quick to remonstrate with referee Hugh Watkins for his ruling that the ball had dropped short of the uprights.

The final whistle sounded soon after as this tight tussle ended in a draw between the sides for the second successive year. Edinburgh’s trip to Galway last season saw them draw 22-22 with Connacht.

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