Edinburgh v Leinster: bonus-point win revives home play-off hopes

John Barclay was named man of the match on his Edinburgh debut after 10 months out with an Achilles injury.

John Barclay
John Barclay was named man of the match on his Edinburgh debut after 10 months out with an Achilles injury. Image: ©Fotosport/David Gibson.

Edinburgh 28

Leinster 11

STUART BATHGATE @ Murrayfield

ONE win down, three to go. Edinburgh still have an uphill fight to reach the play-offs, but they gave their chances a serious lift with this bonus-point win over Leinster. They will still probably have to win their remaining games in PRO14 Conference B to get into the top three, but with Scarlets losing at Cardiff and Benetton being beaten in Connacht, they are back within striking distance, just two points out of the top three.

Third-placed Ulster should win at home to the Southern Kings today to put some breathing space between them and Richard Cockerill’s side, but the head coach had to be happy with a match which also saw John Barclay make a successful return from injury. “It’s been good to have John in training the last two or three weeks, because you can see his experience, and the way he talks he knows the game,” Cockerill said after Barclay’s Edinburgh debut, his first game since last season. “There’s only so much coaches can do. When guys get on the field they have to manage themselves and John’s been around and had a lot of experience which is a big help to us.

“For me it was good to get the international guys back as much as we could because of different calls and different mindsets. You don’t want to be knocking the rust off next week.

“In some ways it fell well for us because Leinster rested pretty much their whole 23 and you saw the strength of their squad tonight. They made us struggle and made us look daft for a good portion of that first half, so it’s a good win. We’ve got a lot to improve on and nobody’s going to be overly content with the performance, which is good.”

Leinster had indeed omitted a large number of their first-choice players, but their early play had a real edge to it, contradicting any notion that their second string would be lacking in passion or purpose. After coming close to an early try, they were awarded a penalty from a five-metre scrum, and full-back Ciarán Frawley knocked it over from the edge of the 22.

Jaco van der Walt should have replied quickly from a similar position, but his kick came back off the far upright. That was no more than a minor setback for the home team, but a more serious one soon followed when Fraser McKenzie was yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle. Leinster wasted no time in taking advantage of the extra man, and a driven maul from a lineout ended with hooker Sean Cronin peeling off the back to score an unconverted try.


SRU SGM: Council motion carries but tone of meeting leaves bitter taste

Tennent’s Premiership: play-off semi-final preview – runners, riders and verdict


Edinburgh began to feature as an attacking force just before McKenzie returned, but when they went for touch with a penalty in a kickable position, they coughed up possession from the resulting lineout drive. Remaining on the offensive, they sent two more penalties to touch, and from the second WP Nel finished off from two metres out after a patient approach. Van der Walt’s conversion closed to the deficit to a single point, but another Frawley penalty soon stretched it to four.

However, after fighting their way back into contention, Edinburgh went ahead for the first time in the last action of the half. Leinster had committed enough penalties in defence to merit a warning from the referee, and when they offended at a five-metre scrum, a penalty try was awarded, with Pierre Schoeman being congratulated by his team-mates for his role in the score.

Second half

The pressure soon resumed after the break, and Leinster’s  Dan Leavy was sinbinned five minutes in for interfering on the deck. The penalty went to touch, and from the lineout Ross Ford peeled off and ploughed over, with Van der Walt adding the conversion.

Edinburgh were well on top by that stage, and continued their dominance even when Leavy returned. The drive for the fourth try looked laboured at points, but it eventually came just after the hour when Bill Mata finished off close to the posts and substitute Simon Hickey converted.

With the outcome all but settled Leinster came back into it, but the closest they came to scoring was when they were held up over the line in the last minute. Defeat was academic for the Irish province given they are so far clear at the top of the conference. For Edinburgh, by contrast, this win was of potentially great significance, both rekindling their play-off hopes and setting them up nicely for next week’s Champions Cup quarter-final against Munster.

 

Edinburgh: D Fife; D Graham, J Johnstone, M Scott (C Dean 50), D van der Merwe; J van der Walt (S Hickey 50), H Pyrgos (C Shiel 69); P Schoeman (A Dell 70), R Ford (C Fenton 66), W Nel (S Berghan 52), F McKenzie, B Toolis (C Hunter-Hill 35), J Barclay (temp rep M Bradbury 58-68), H Watson, V Mata (M Bradbury 69).

Leinster: J O’Brien; F McFadden, N Reid (C O’Brien 10), J Tomane (G Mullin 74), B Daly; C Frawley, L McGrath (N McCarthy 63); E Byrne (J McGrath 54), S Cronin (B Byrne 40), M Bent (A Porter 54), J Murphy, M Kearney, R Ruddock (J Dunne 74), D Leavy (O Dowling 66), M Deegan.

Scorers: Edinburgh: Tries: Nel, penalty try, Ford, Mata. Cons: Van der Walt 2, Hickey.

Leinster: Try: Cronin. Pens: Frawley 2.

Scoring sequence: 0-3, 0-8, 5-8, 7-8, 7-11, 14-11 half-time, 19-11, 21-11, 26-11, 28-11.

Yellow cards: Edinburgh: McKenzie 12-22. Leinster: Leavy 45-55.

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales).

Attendance: 6,661.


SRU SGM: Council motion carries but tone of meeting leaves bitter taste

 

About Stuart Bathgate 1430 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.