Leinster Rugby v Edinburgh
Edinburgh can hold their heads high, despite leaving the RDS Arena without a losing bonus point, as they bravely battled to the bitter death before ultimately falling just short against a full-strength Leinster outfit.
Richard Cockerill’s side jumped out to a six-point lead via two penalties from Jason Tovey, however, the hosts swiftly struck back when Jordi Murphy wriggled over from short distance. An electric 50-metre intercepted try from the impressive Tovey breathed life into a much-changed Edinburgh outfit, but they were once again pegged back when Leinster’s Joey Carbery dived over in the corner on the stroke of half-time. The hosts held a slender 14-13 lead at the break and it was all to play for.
The second-half soon descended into trench warfare as Edinburgh repelled a plethora of Irish attacks. Jamie Ritchie was sent to the bin following a late hit on Carbery, but Richard Cockerill’s side stood strong in defence. Edinburgh thought they had the go-ahead try when Dougie Fife powered over from 10 metres out, however, the referee contentiously chalked off the score for crossing in the build-up. With only minutes to go, a misjudged clearance landed favourably for the Irish side, which they were able to capitalise on as Jamison Gibson-Park plunged over from only metres out to seal the win.
Edinburgh began the match with a renewed confidence. With Tovey pulling the strings at 10, the visitors new looks back-line, which contained five different starters from the previous weekend’s defeat to Scarlets, looked dangerous from the get-go. Scotland Sevens star James Johnstone had a number of dangerous outside breaks as Edinburgh showed the early impetus. Leinster struggled to maintain their discipline in the opening ten minutes and Edinburgh duly made them pay. Two well-struck penalties from Jason Tovey gave the hosts an early six-point advantage.
Leinster are no pushovers at the RDS Arena, however, and they soon struck back with a clinically taken score. When Sexton kicked a penalty to the corner, the Irish outfit’s robust pack swiftly manoeuvred into a rolling maul and with momentum on their side Jordi Murphy was able to stretch over for the simple try, which Sexton converted.
Perhaps the moment of the match was to quickly follow the Irish side’s opener. With Leinster looking to form an attack on the half-way, a careless pass was intercepted by Tovey and from 50 metres out there was no denying the stand-off. As the Welshman chipped over the simple conversion, Edinburgh held a well-deserved 13-7 lead.
However, on the stroke of half-time, Richard Cockerill’s side were dealt a hammer blow. With pressure mounting on the Edinburgh try-line, the ball was played down the blind-side to Carbery who dodged over the line. As Sexton hit the tricky conversion, the hosts held a 14-13 lead as the referee brought a scintillating opening 45 minutes to a close.
Leinster emerged from the break with a raised intensity which had Edinburgh camped on their own try-line for the opening 10 minutes of the second-half. However, Edinburgh were clearly up to the task at hand. The back-line’s scrambling defence had Sexton stumped, whilst the pack’s persistence at the breakdown gave the hosts no time to build an attack. Hamish Watson showed why he is rated so highly as he turned over Leinster on the Edinburgh try-line with a brilliant piece of defensive play.
When Jamie Ritchie was yellow-carded for a late hit on Luke McGrath, it could have been easy for Edinburgh to crumble, however, it only acted as a catalyst. The visitors lifted themselves and could have easily scored their second try of the evening, had the referee not cancelled out Dougie Fife’s fine effort for crossing in the build-up.
With the match in the balance, and truly looking like it could go either way, Edinburgh gave the ball away cheaply on their own five metre-line when an errant clearance kick didn’t find touch. When the ball fortuitously landed in the grasp of Jamison Gibson-Park, there was no stopping the replacement from such short yardage.
Edinburgh battled to the bitter death in an attempt to salvage a deserved losing bonus point, however Leinster did just enough to hold onto their eight-point advantage.
Despite the result, Richard Cockerill was more than happy with the intensity his side displayed. "I was delighted with the performance and with the effort of the players," said the head coach. "I thought it was s first class performance and I think we were unlucky not to get something out of the game."
"To come here and face a fully loaded team like they had, and to perform and to actually probably deserve at least a point, if not sneak the win, we should be happy with the performance at least."
"We're taking a step in the right direction, we're building confidence and belief in what we're doing. I think we're slowly turning the corner."