Faloon late show wins it for Connacht

Date published: September 13 2014

A last-minute try from Willie Faloon was enough to give Connacht a second straight win as they edged out Edinburgh 14-13 at Murrayfield.

A last-minute try from Willie Faloon was enough to give Connacht a second straight win as they edged out Edinburgh 14-13 at Murrayfield.

The Connacht skipper had been sin-binned earlier in the half, but he was in the right place at the right time as the visitors sneaked a vital away win to back up last week's similarly narrow triumph over the Dragons.

By contrast, the hosts failed to build upon their fine opening round victory at Munster with an insipid display lacking in energy, and punctuated by mistakes and wastefulness.

Connacht were equally devoid of exactitude, but benefited from Edinburgh's indiscipline to snatch victory with Faloon's 76th-minute touch-down, cancelling out Cornell Du Preez's first-half score.

The freshly laid hybrid surface adorning Scotland's national stadium proved an infinite improvement on the previous, maggot-infested incarnation, but the rugby scarcely matched the underfoot conditions – either in quality or aesthetics.

Precision and accuracy eluded both teams, with promising attacking positions squandered through handling errors and poor decision-making at crucial points.

Edinburgh struck first with four minutes gone, as Denis Buckley dropped his bind at a scrum wide on the left, and fly-half Tom Heathcote slotted the resultant penalty.

His counterpart, Darragh Leader struggled with the boot early on, failing to take advantage of an opportunity to hit back from the tee almost immediately.

Heathcote, surely relishing his chance to play regular rugby, was on target again as the clock hit double figures, slamming a three-pointer over from just inside away territory.

Edinburgh had started well, and kept up the pressure as Jack Cuthbert almost exploited the vast Murrayfield dead ball areas, threading a grubber-kick down the left that just beat the chasing Nick MacLennan out of play, before Sam Beard was bundled into touch on the other flank.

Leader missed another long-range penalty, but finally found his range from straight in front of the uprights as John Andress refused to roll away fast enough for Gary Conway's liking.

As was a feature of the capital side's first season under Alan Solomons, Edinburgh often proved as adept as exerting pressure on themselves as did their opposition.

Cuthbert fumbled a quick throw-in over his own line, but was bailed out when Connacht pivot, Jack Carty, chose to grubber rather than keep the ball in hand.

And though gaining ascendancy in the tight proved a crucial filip in the Thomond triumph seven days prior, the Edinburgh set-piece continued to leak penalties, free-kicks and possession.

The visitors though were growing into the game, spreading the ball well, and making inroads into the home half aided by Edinburgh's bizarre lack of urgency in defence.

The much-vaunted Robbie Henshaw looked menacing from midfield, so too tricky winger Niyi Adeolokun.

Leader's second penalty – predictably from a scrum infringement – squeezed inside the left upright to level the scores with half-time two minutes away.

Solomons' men would eventually labour their way over with the clock red, though they contrived to make hard work of a simple overlap to send man-of-the-match Du Preez crashing in at the corner.

Heathcote struck a fine conversion from the touchline to send his side into the dressing room holding a seven-point lead.

Having toiled on the tighthead side for much of the first half, it came as little surprise that Andress did not emerge after the interval, WP Nel his replacement. The substitute would not ease his pack's set-piece woes.

Heathcote grazed the post with his third penalty attempt minutes after the break, and Du Preez almost put Beard away up the right touchline with a sumptuous back-handed offload before splintering the Connacht midfield himself in a rare display of purposeful running.

Once more, however, the hosts proceeded to shoot themselves in the foot, and with yet another penalty awarded against the Edinburgh scrum, Nel was sent trudging to the sideline for ten minutes.

Leader knocked over his most difficult kick of the evening, and moments later, Henshaw just failed to free his hands in the tackle with centre partner Dave McSharry begging for an offload and a run-in from barely ten metres.

Edinburgh looked in trouble again as a rolling Connacht maul advanced deep into the home 22, but a flag from assistant referee Graeme Marshall eased the pressure, the official having spotted a nasty stamp from Faloon.

Nel returned as Faloon departed, ensuring the hosts would enjoy a numerical advantage, and finally some degree of impetus.

Du Preez again was the catalyst, aiming a kick down towards the Connacht line, the rapidly advancing black jerseys swallowing up George Naoupu and carrying him into in-goal.

With Edinburgh now a man up in the scrum, the outstanding South African picked up and powered his way home for what he thought was his second try, only to be denied by the TMO as the ball squirmed free from his grasp before brushing the whitewash.

That kept the gap at a mere four points, and offered Connacht – who had yet to lead – renewed hope of a comeback.

Opting for a crack at the corner rather than the posts, they got their reward. Faloon, fresh from his return to the action, went from villain to hero as the man in possession when the pack rumbled their way across the line.

Four minutes remained, and with Carty's missed conversion, Edinburgh trailed by a point.

They couldn't pull the match from the fire as – preserving the theme of the evening – the hosts were penalised in the scrum, and Connacht ran down the clock to make exasperating Edinburgh pay for their profligacy.

By Jamie Lyall

The scorers:

For Edinburgh:
Try: Du Preez
Conversion: Heathcote
Penalties: Heathcote 2
Yellow Card: Nel

For Connacht:
Try: Faloon
Penalties: Leader 3
Yellow Card: Faloon

The teams:

Edinburgh: 15 Jack Cuthbert, 14 Sam Beard, 13 Phil Burleigh, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Nick McLennan, 10 Tom Heathcote, 9 Sean Kennedy, 8 Cornell Du Preez, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Tomas Leonardi, 5 Ollie Atkins, 4 Fraser McKenzie, 3 John Andress, 2 Ross Ford (c), 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 James Hilterbrand, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 W P Nel, 19 Anton Bresler, 20 Mike Coman, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Grayson Hart, 23 Joaquin Dominguez.

Connacht: 15 Darragh Leader, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Danie Poolman, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Willie Faloon, 6 John Muldoon (c), 5 Quinn Roux, 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Nathan White, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Sean Henry, 17 Finlay Bealham, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Aly Muldowney, 20 George Naoupu, 21 Ian Porter,