Edinburgh come into these third-round fixtures hoping to pick up their first win after two narrow defeats to Ulster and Ospreys. Connacht, meanwhile, picked up their first victory against Zebre last Saturday in a strong display and will be looking for more of the same this weekend at BT Murrayfield (KO: 19.35).
What’s at stake?
This game could be crucial in the race for a Guinness PRO14 Final Series spot. Edinburgh finished last season on fire but have lost each of their first two games and will be hoping that playing on home soil for the first time will help them get the win.
Connacht will be confident following their 32-13 win over Zebre but will know that winning away in Edinburgh will not come easy. But a victory here for Connacht could set them on their way towards a better campaign than last year when they finished sixth in Conference A.
Team news (Edinburgh Rugby):
Richard Cockerill has made three changes to the side that faced Ulster in Belfast last weekend, with flanker Hamish Watson, wing Duhan van der Merwe and centre James Johnstone all coming into the starting XV.
Scotland star Watson is named in the back row with fellow international Luke Hamilton who switches to No.8 in the place of the injured, Bill Mata.
Mark Bennett drops out of contention due to injury and is replaced by Johnstone in midfield.
Van der Merwe returns to action and is named in the place of Tom Brown.
Team news (Connacht Rugby):
Ireland international scrum-half Kieran Marmion is set to make his first start of the Guinness PRO14 campaign along with three other changes.
Conan O’Donnell, Ultan Dillane and Niyi Adeolokun are also included.
Bundee Aki returns on the bench for Connacht’s first away trip of the season.
Talking points: Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill has praised his side after their narrow 30-29 defeat to Ulster and says they need to put in a similar performance against Connacht.
“We just need to make sure that we put in the same performance against Connacht as we did against Ulster, and we’ll be fine.
“Connacht have had a pretty good start. They just lost to Glasgow, but could have won that at the death and then they had a pretty big win against Zebre last weekend.
“They’re playing some really good stuff. Andy Friend seems to have had a really big impact on them and they’re playing with the ball in hand.”
Meanwhile, Connacht head coach Andy Friend has said he is happy with his squad following their 32-13 victory to Zebre last time out and says they need to take that form into this game.
“It is pleasing that we have some real depth and quality coming through, it’s how we balance it while rewarding good performances at the same time. We also really need that physicality against this Edinburgh side,” Friend said.
“We face a big challenge in Murrayfield and no doubt Edinburgh will be hurting after the loss last weekend – it’s another massive challenge for us.”
Key battle: Blair Kinghorn vs Tiernan O’Halloran.
Blair Kinghorn gained nearly 300 metres more than any other player last season in the Guinness PRO14, so it goes without saying that Connacht will have to be wary of his ability to carry the ball. Alongside Kinghorn, Tiernan O’Halloran was one of only three players that gained over 1000 meters last season. That says then that whichever one of these two ball carries can put more of a stamp on the game, the more effective their side will be. In the wide expanses of BT Murrayfield, the tactical kicking game will be crucial, and even moreso with the likes of Kinghorn and O’Halloran ready to counter-attack from deep.
Key stat: Connacht have won on three of their last four visits to BT Murrayfield and it was in the Scottish capital that they won the title back in 2016, beating Leinster in the final.
Did you know? Connacht have won four out of the five meetings between the two sides, with Edinburgh’s only victory coming the last time the two sides met last year when they won 29-22.
Edinburgh Rugby: Blair Kinghorn, Dougie Fife, James Johnstone, Matt Scott, Duhan van der Merwe, Simon Hickey, Henry Pyrgos, Pierre Schoeman, Stuart McInally, WP Nel, Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Luke Hamilton
Replacements: Ross Ford, Allan Dell, Simon Berghan, Fraser McKenzie, Magnus Bradbury, Sean Kennedy, Jaco van der Walt, Juan Pabloe Socino
Connacht Rugby: Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun, Eoin Griffin, Kyle Godwin, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion, Conan O’Donnell, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Ultan Dillane, Sean O’Brien, Jarrad Butler, Paul Boyle
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, James Cannon, Colby Fainga’a, Caolan Blade, Craig Ronaldson, Bundee Aki
TV: Premier Sports 1 & eir sports 2
Referee: Ian Davies (WRU)
Assistant Referees: Craig Davies (WRU) & Ian Kenny (SRU)
Citing Commissioner: TBC
TMO: Neil Patterson (SRU)
Duhan van der Merwe and Pierre Schoeman scored in each half to earn Edinburgh their first Guinness PRO14 win of the season, 17-10 against Connacht in difficult conditions.
After two narrow losses, Edinburgh needed a win to get their season on track but as they did against Ulster a week ago, they faded in the final quarter as Connacht came back into the game.
Still, from 17-0 Edinburgh had enough of a lead and were able to grind out victory in the damp conditions in the Scottish capital despite the Connacht recovery.
Edinburgh enjoyed the early possession and were almost ahead early on when Matt Scott got away down the left after a break from Jaco van der Walt.
The South African fly-half was a late inclusion in the starting line-up after Simon Hickey was forced to withdraw but he showed no ill-effects from the disrupted preparation.
Edinburgh finally made a breakthrough on 26 minutes and it all stemmed from a break by Blair Kinghorn. The full-back found Hamish Watson inside him and with Connacht scrambling, Jarrad Butler was penalised and sent to the sin-bin for knocking the ball out of Henry Pyrgos’ hands.
With the extra man, Edinburgh took advantage of the stretched defence with Pyrgos throwing a wide pass for a simple finish for Van der Merwe.
Edinburgh were on top in the scrum as well, and when the Connacht set-piece faltered on the stroke of half-time, Van der Walt curled a penalty home to make it 10-0 at the break for the home side.
Conditions made running rugby difficult but Edinburgh continued to control field position and should have added to their lead early in the second half. Kinghorn was again heavily involved, running an arcing wide line and then seemingly putting in Van der Merwe for his second.
The South African winger juggled the ball though, and could not collect, as Connacht breathed a sigh of relief.
It was only temporary respite though, with Schoeman making a big impression on the loosehead. He was the man who emerged with the ball after a dominant maul, with Van der Walt converting to make it 17-0.
Connacht looked to be dead and buried but they finally got some field position shortly before the hour-mark.
They used it to great effect, with Jack Carty throwing a magnificent wide pass for Niyi Adeolokun to go over in the right-hand corner.
Carty converted from the touchline and when he added another three points from a penalty four minutes from time, it was a one-score game.
Just as it looked like they might let another lead slip, Edinburgh’s pack stepped up and earned a crucial scrum penalty to see out the victory.