Edinburgh v Leinster: defeat does more damage to home team’s play-off hopes

Late Sam Skinner score secures try bonus point as capital club succumb to a seventh defeat in eight URC outings

Edinburgh v Leinster
Leinster's Liam Turner on the attack against Edinburgh. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

Edinburgh 27
Leinster 47

STUART BATHGATE @ the DAM Health Stadium

EDINBURGH’s play-off hopes may not be dead yet, but they are looking decidedly peaky, to say the least, after this seventh defeat in eight URC outings. Mike Blair’s side managed to secure a bonus point with the last try of an open and entertaining game, but with only three regular-season fixtures left it is wins they need, not minor consolations.

The home team gave as good as they got for much of the first half against the unbeaten league leaders, who have now won all 15 of their league outings so far in this campaign. The second half, however, was a different story, as Leinster maintained their intensity while Edinburgh’s standards dropped, above all in defence.

The Irish team ended up scoring seven tries, six of them converted, to Edinburgh’s four tries, two conversions and a penalty. For a side without no fewer than 17 internationals, it was quite simply an awesome performance – albeit one at a level which we have now come to expect.

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Blair was without six of his leading players through Scotland commitments, and their return after the Six Nations could be crucial to Edinburgh’s hopes of salvaging something from a season that is currently in danger of drawing painfully to an unrewarding close. Emiliano Boffelli and Stuart McInally were both back from injury here and their quality was soon evident, but too many of their team-mates were some way below their best.

“I was really proud of what we put on the pitch in the first half,” Blair said after a result that saw his team drop to 12th in the 16-team table. “In the second half they [Leinster] got a huge amount of momentum in their attack. They were very efficient at the breakdown and very good coming on to ball. 

“They were good – but we need to be better as well. We need to slow the ball down and get bodies in front. 

“It may sound strange to say, but there was some gutsy defence in that second half. We got a bonus point, but we are aware that playing at home there is no way we should just be content with a bonus point.”

It was Boffelli who opened the scoring, from a Ben Vellacott pass after good work by McInally and Marshall Sykes. But the full-back missed the conversion, and that allowed Leinster to take the lead minutes later when Max Deegan shrugged off a Vellacott tackle all too easily to equalise. 

Harry Byrne’s conversion put the visitors in front, but that lead did not last long either. An Edinburgh move up the right quickly gained ground, and when the ball came back infield Boan Venter finished off from a couple of metres out. Boffelli was on target this time to make it 12-7, and stretched that lead by three points with a penalty minutes later.

However, Leinster hit back when man-of-the-match Scott Penny plunged over, and they then regained the lead late in the first half when Michael Milne finished off with ease. Byrne’s conversion of the prop’s score made it 15-21 at half-time. 

Minutes after the restart, the lead extended into double figures when Dave Kearney touched down in the left corner from a crossfield kick. Edinburgh hit back when Boffelli claimed his second try of the evening, but by this time it had become obvious that Leinster were able to score almost at will, and the visitors restored their double-figures advantage when Milne scored his second from close range. 

Michael Ala’alatoa and Penny got tries six and seven for the visitors midway through the second period. Leinster slackened off somewhat after that, and Edinburgh had the last word minutes from time when Sam Skinner touched down and Charlie Savala converted. Leinster replacement Brian Deeny was sent to the sin bin for an offence leading up to that try. 


Teams –

Edinburgh: E Boffelli (J van der Walt 71); D Hoyland, M Bennett, J Lang, W Goosen (C Dean 32); C Savala, B Vellacott (C Shiel 60); B Venter (J Jack 71), S McInally (D Cherry 53), L Atalifo (E Millar-Mills 53), M Sykes (J Hodgson 60), S Skinner, L Crosbie (captain), H Watson, V Mata (N Haining 18-27, 70). 

Leinster: C Frawley (C Tector 69); J Larmour (R Russell 60), L Turner, J Osborne, D Kearney; H Byrne, L McGrath (N McCarthy 60); M Milne (J Boyle 60), J McKee (L Barron 55), M Ala’alatoa (T Clarkson 60), R Molony, J Jenkins (B Deeny 55), R Ruddock (captain, W Connors 55), S Penny, M Deegan.

Referee: C Evans (Wales).


Scorers –

Edinburgh: Tries: Boffelli 2, Venter, Skinner. Cons: Boffelli, Savala. Pen: Boffelli.

Leinster: Tries: Deegan, Penny 2, Milne 2, Kearney, Ala’alatoa. Cons: Byrne 6.

Scoring sequence (Edinburgh first): 5-0; 5-5; 5-7; 10-7; 12-7; 15-7; 15-12; 15-14; 15-19; 15-21 (h-t) 15-26; 20-26; 20-31; 20-33; 20-38; 20-40; 20-45; 20-47; 25-47; 27-47.


Yellow card –

Leinster: Deeny 77.


Attendance: 7,240.

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About Stuart Bathgate 1438 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.


  1. When Mike Blair announced his decision to step down from Head Coach, he should also have left the club. He’s a lame-duck coach and as such will not be able to get the attention or respect of the players that a coach requires. Mike was having problems in that area anyway and his announcement only compounds that. The right thing for him to do is to leave the club. Look, Mike is a very decent guy, no question, but it’s not good for the morale of the club for him to hang around. The leaders at the SRU should surely know this.

    • Whilst I agree to some extent I don’t accept the idea that players cant give 100% because they don’t in some way respect the coach. Its not as if there has been some major rift between coach and players. They are paid professionals who should take pride in their own performance and give their all. Some of the individual performances were way below par and I fear some are just not capable of giving much more whoever the coach is. The forwards generally got stuck in but too many of the backs didn’t.

  2. Well for the first 20 minutes or so I felt my self induced ‘Purdah’ from phone and laptop was worth the isolation until I could view the ‘skin-flint’ coverage on Viaplay, sadly from there on Leinster were just a different standard, even when they put ‘fillers’ on during 6N they perform.
    That said as the article and others have suggested some of the tackling in the backs was a bit flaky to say the least. The real lesson here is the structure of the Irish sides in the competition and the Irish system as a whole, suggesting there’s more than just the lessons from this game to be learnt, especially in the development of young players and their exposure to quality competition.

  3. I listened to Mike Blair on BBC Scotland’s Rugby Podcast last week.

    He was honest, although I don’t think we are hearing the whole story, but rule one of leadership is ‘Don’t Cry on Parade’.

    I can’t imagine what I would be thinking if I was a player listening to that. I certainly wouldn’t be going out on the field with any confidence my coach knew what he was doing.

    He comes over as a decent bloke but you can’t behave like that when you are meant to be leading any group, let alone an elite group of athletes.

    If the hope was for a ‘let’s do this for Mike’ reaction, I am afraid we might just have seen it.

    It is never nice to see someone fail, less still to watch a decent person realising they have failed, but he needs to step aside now for the good of the team.

  4. The team looked ok on paper and started well enough, but the slump in the second half pretty much summed up where Edinburgh are just now.

    Leinster were always going to offer a stern test, but they were helped considerably by shambolic defence and a lack of any threat from the Edinburgh attack. I did wonder if Chris Dean would have played much in that game if it wasn’t for Goosen’s latest injury setback, as he was a long way off the form he showed before his injury. The forwards were solid enough, but there was nothing really to trouble the Leinster defence, who were too often offside, when the ball reached the backs.

    The players are already disheartened and, clearly, so is Edinburgh’s support. I hope the returning internationals can inject some life into proceedings when they’re available.

  5. Think everyone has nailed the issues that have been obvious for sometime . But at long last the senior players turned up in the forwards unfortunately the backs went missing .
    The intensity was there in attack but absent in defence particularly outside 22 . There defence was drilled quick and confident amazing in first 10 mins and it says a lot for us that we still scored.
    Unfortunately they never had to battle hard for the first try or in truth any of them all so simples – clearly the change in our defence coaching has gone wrong way as we had one of best defensive records few years ago ! Both our wingers looked off – still injured ? Goosen – oh I feel for the man his face when he came off injured again ! Hoyland not himself. The centres our first choice looked all at sea . I realise we are short of cover in these positions during international period but surely we don’t have to keep picking players that are not right for what ever reason . What has Jaco done – every time he has come on and it’s not very often he done some great things never missed a tackle and fought hard . Onwards and upwards we hope !

  6. I’ve criticised our wide wide game plan all season, it worked for a while last year but teams had worked out how to counter us long before this present season even began. As Lions, Munster and Glasgow before them, Leinster slowed down the breakdown and defended in numbers in the wider channels, where Edinburgh trying to force things dropped the ball on at least 5 different occasions, gifting the opposition turnovers and broken field to exploit.
    The definition of madness is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. If this is all MB has to offer, he can’t go quickly enough for me. I’ve met Mike, I like him but he’s totally out of his depth. Enough is enough!

  7. Scrape into the playoffs to get humiliated by Leinster (the cheap option) or flatter to deceive against the Stormers (expensive option). Relying on the Weegies to beat Connacht in round 18 on our behalf isn’t really the sort of win we should be relying on. That’s if we can overcome Ulster in Belfast.

  8. Have to say (though it pains me to say) that Leinster looked extremely well coached.
    Given our Head Coach issues I can’t see it being a solution -as suggested elsewhere this week-to keep MB on as attack coach next season.Clearly that is not going to happen.
    The League season is gone for Edinburgh.They should concentrate on the Leicester fixture at the end of the month rather that bringing tired Scotland 23 players back the weekend after the Italy match.From the sound of it hopefully a chance Darcy Graham will be fit by then.

    • Agree with the coaching comment and regards focussing on Europe and the Leicester game you are probably right. The first URC game after Italy is the must win Connacht away game so it will be an interesting call for Mike and its not realistic anyway to play all the internationalists for several games in a row straight after the Italy game.

  9. A case of men against boys and the men had their arrest whipped. Given the number of capped players across the home team, and the inadequate performance perhaps a clear out of the squad and coaching team by the new head coach would be in order. Too many players going through the motions as if their season was over. Unacceptable for so called professionals. A number need to be dropped. Play the young players and see if they have what it takes. The seasoned pros clearly don’t.

      • Bennett; earlier this season he was touted on form for the Scotland team. Far too inconsistent with his troughs making him unpickable. At his stage in his career and with his ability should be at 7 or 8 out of 10 every week.
        Edinburgh cannot afford to carry any non-Scottish qualified passengers. Goosen, owing to his injury issues has to go.
        Why persist with the Savala experiment/qualification saga when the player shows no indication that he can step up?
        Mata has been an absolute rock over many years but has been showing signs that his level of play is in decline.
        I am sure others can add.

  10. Leinster are unbelievable and I actually wonder if the league would be a better more compelling and competitive product without them. Edinburgh looked dangerous on occasion and battled hard but Leinster had the ability to score at will. I thought the end of the first half was the turning point. We were 5 points down and had the ball around the half way line and kicked it out. They’re may have been a mitigating factor that I didn’t pick up at the game but it looked like a lack of ambition and probably showed Leinster everything they needed to see. Let’s hope we can step up in Europe.

  11. The Edinburgh attack was woeful in open field lacking imagination. Close to the line Leinster were always going to score, constantly switching their direction of attack and pulling Edinburgh all over the park. Edinburgh were just one up pick and go – much much easier to defend and we seldom looked like scoring. My concern with Leinster was the number of high tackles they made that weren’t picked up. I counted at least 8, if we are going to eliminate this from the game the Referee/TMO/Assistants must do a better job.

    • Great video on line looking at high tackle in Ireland games and the fact that in attack they seal off every time same yesterday . Unless a player is injured never picked up . Oh and not mention the line speed almost always on the line or offside . They play the ref very well in Ireland . Least said about our line speed last night the better.

  12. That was catastrophic. Whilst they played well for the first 20 minutes thereafter it was dreadful – to lose 47 points at home against any team is unacceptable. I have tried to put my finger on where it has all been going wrong recently and after last night it has to lie largely with the backs. Both in attack and defence they have been shocking and totally outclassed by a Leinster team of largely up and coming backs. In attack they are so static and lateral often drifting across the park – no slick moves or deception and Leinster easily contained them. In defence it gets worse – Leinster seemed to have all the time in the world on the ball and found space at will whether they went wide or through the middle. Some of their tries were far too easy with basic missed tackles that you’d expect schoolboys to make. It was like unopposed rugby at times. Leinster play at an incredible tempo but we just let them and fell off too many tackles. What is our defensive strategy?

    Vellacott may be a jinky runner but his service is slow and took too long to decide what he was doing. Savala is not good enough and all 3 centres involved were poor. Defensively they were all bad and Dean was a catalogue of errors when he came on.

    The forwards were a bit better – set piece solid but thereafter didn’t put enough pressure on Leinster to stop their flow.

    Edinburgh are now in 12th place having won 5 out of 15 games and have Connacht and Ulster away to come. No chance of making top 8.

    • Edinburgh have a huge drop off in quality between their 1st and 2nd choice players.

      We will have all our first choice players for the last 3 games.

      Edinburgh have a decent chance of making the top 8 surprisingly, they will probably need to get at least 12 points from the remaining 3 games however.

      Connacht and Ospreys ‘should’ be an easy 5 points with the likes of Gilchrist/Ritchie/Schoeman/Kinghorn/Graham/VDM to come back in.

      Ulster away is tougher but Edinburgh have shown to be competitive in one-off games such as Saracens where alot is on the line.

      Have a look at what our relative competition for 8th place is, a lot are clashing with each other/playing very tough teams for a least 2 out the remaining 3 fixtures.

      Leinster are the gold standard on the planet for club rugby. They have been putting results out like that on every team, don’t be too disheartened.

      • I do admire your optimism however Connacht are currently in 8th place and are 7 points ahead of us. We play Connacht next and clearly must win. Their other 2 games are Glasgow away which they should lose but Cardiff at home which they should win. So we must beat Ulster away and Ospreys at home and hope that we get the better of any bonus points.

        Regarding the gulf between our 1st and 2nd choice players – I agree in some positions but the most worrying area for me is the half backs and centres. Yesterday was our 1st choice except perhaps Kinghorn so even if Darcy and Duane had been playing it would have made little difference as the midfield was so disorganised and lacking creativity. Without a Finn Russel at stand off you cant get Duane and Darcy into the game effectively.

        Im afraid I remain disheartened as I agree Leinster are the gold Standard but this is largely a 2nd team they have out and we should do better.

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