Edinburgh 26 Connacht 37
Changed times. Last season Edinburgh did not lose a Pro14 game at Murrayfield before the lockdown. Since the restart, they have now lost six in succession, including four at the home of Scottish rugby. If that is profoundly worrying for coach Richard Cockerill, the nature of a loss in which a one-dimensional Edinburgh had little offer but lineout drives and occasional incursions from 20-year-old debutant fullback Jack Blain will be enough to prompt a prolonged bout of introspection at Murrayfield.
An enterprising Connacht side were good value for their bonus point win, displaying a greater urgency and intensity than an Edinburgh outfit who too often helped the visitors on their way by hemorrhaging possession and territory through a succession of needless penalties. It is true that Edinburgh were missing 17 players to Scotland duty and injury, yet there were enough senior players in the starting line-up – eight regular starters in all – to have expected more. Cockerill will rightly be raging.
Connacht certainly came to play. Pat Lam may have moved on to Bristol, but his legacy is the high-tempo game he pioneered which took the man from Galway to a Pro14 title, and that swashbuckling approach that was in evidence at Murrayfield as the Irishmen lacerated Edinburgh's defence. They were at their most lethal midway through the first half when they registered three inspired tries within 15 minutes.
The home side had already scored the opening try in trademark Edinburgh style, their forwards driving from a lineout, Pierre Schoeman and Mike Willemse going close before scrum-half Nic Groom ducked under a tackler to go over. But when Connacht hit back they did it in spectacular style, little scrum-half Caolin Blade breaking round the front of a lineout, kicking ahead as the cover closed and winning the race to the touchdown.
If that was good, the gloriously deft grubber kick from Conor Fitzgerald which unlocked the Edinburgh defence for Sammy Arnold to touch down was sublime. With Edinburgh reeling and losing a second lineout in succession, Connacht then moved the ball from sideline to sideline, fullback John Porch put on the afterburners to outstrip Eroni Sau, drawing fullback Jack Blain before putting wing Alex Wooton away for a wonderful counterattacking score.
No doubt sensing how their coach's half-time talk might go, Edinburgh stepped up a gear and were unlucky to claim a well-worked try by Sau off a lineout chalked off when Chris Dean got ahead of the ball-carrier. Yet they dug in and three minutes into extra time Willemse barrelled over from a lineout drive.
When Willemse added another from a lineout in identical fashion 10 minutes after the break, Edinburgh were somehow back to within four points of the visitors, but it was not to last. Moments later another penalty against Edinburgh saw Connacht kick to the corner and Man of the Match Blade put through a lovely grubber off the lineout, Wooton winning the chase to touch down to give Connacht the bonus point.
By now bad was going from worse, and every time Connacht got the ball they made ground as they changed the angle of attack adroitly. With almost a quarter of the match remaining hooker Shane Delahunt forced his way over to give Connacht an unassailable 37-19 lead.
Although the game was now beyond them, there was still a bonus point on offer so Edinburgh muscled up and pursued it, lock Andrew Davidson forcing his way over after a lengthy series of pick-and-gos to claim Edinburgh's fourth try and a bonus point. It wasn't, to be honest, much of a consolation.
Edinburgh: J Blain; E Sau, J Johnstone, C Dean (G Taylor, 64), J Farndale; J van der Walt, N Groom (captain (H Pyrgos, 56)); P Schoeman (J Bhatti, 71), M Willemse (D Cherry, 63), W Nel (M McCallum, 56), L Carmichael (J Hodgson, 71), A Davidson, M Bradbury, A Miller (C Boyle, 65), M Kunavula.
Connacht: J Porch; S Arnold (T O’Halloran, 21), T Farrell, T Daly, A Wootton; C Fitzgerald (P Robb, 27), C Blade (C Reilly, 32); D Buckley (P McAllister, 53), S Delahunt (J Murphy, 69), J Aungier (D Robertson-McCoy, 53), E Masterson, G Thornbury (C Prendergast, 72), P Boyle, J Butler (captain), A Papali’i (C Oliver, 53).
Referee: A Jones (Wales).