A DISMAL mismatch at a blustery RDS was as painful from an Edinburgh point of view as it was predictable. Leinster went into this game having recorded five bonus-point wins from five games, and they had another maximum wrapped up by half-time, which ended with them 26-3 to the good. Another four tries in the second half saw them rack up a half-century of points, and the impressive thing about that tally was that they had played well within themselves for much of the game.
There were some positives for Richard Cockerill’s seriously understrength squad to take from the game, notably a lively performance in the loose by No 8 Ally Miller, an athletic display in defence and attack by hooker David Cherry, and some hints of red-blooded enthusiasm from Andries Ferreira, the second row. Eroni Sau put in a few impressive tackles, too, although the Fijian winger went on to blot his copybook by being sinbinned in the second half.
On the whole, though, this game was one for Edinburgh to endure rather than enjoy – something that could be said of the whole international period given how depleted their resources have been by Test call-ups and injuries. The exposure of some young players to this level of rugby may well be useful to them in all sorts of ways eventually, but at the moment the main thing they are learning is how to cope with adversity.
The best that could be said about the first half from the visitors’ point of view was that there was a lot to like about their play in the first ten minutes or so. They may have only been on the offensive for a short spell straight from kick-off, but they dealt well with the home team’s first threatening hints. Jack Blain calmly coped with a dangerous situation after Devin Toner had charged down a Henry Pyrgos box-kick, for example, and their general defensive solidity contrasted with some uncharacteristic indiscipline from the home side.
It did not take long, however, for Leinster to shrug off that indifferent start and prove just how deadly they can be. Edinburgh lost possession from their own lineout inside the opposition 22, and a lightning counter-attack saw Blain field a kick ahead. He was then turned over, and a couple of phases later full-back Jimmy O’Brien kicked ahead for Dave Kearney to touch down in the corner.
Even that early in the game, the ease with which the unconverted try had been scored provoked a sinking feeling of inevitability, and it was no surprise when Leinster claimed their second score midway through the half. Kearney turned creator this time, claiming possession from a breakdown and putting Luke McGrath through on the blindside for a clear run to the line, with Ciaran Frawley converting this time.
After a more promising spell of possession, Nathan Chamberlain opened the scoring for the visitors with a penalty on the half-hour. But as half-time approached, by far the bulk of Edinburgh’s work was in defence. Pierre Schoeman did particularly well to hold up Dan Leavy, but with advantage being played, Leinster tapped the penalty and Peter Dooley scored from close range.
Frawley’s conversion made it 19-3, then with mere seconds to spare in the half a knock-on gave Leinster another attacking opportunity. McGrath exploited it to the full, the centre added a further two points, and Edinburgh went in at the break knowing they would have to dig deep in the second 40 simply to avoid serious embarrassment.
They went further behind a little more than two minutes after the restart when a counter-attack set up the platform, and Dan Leavy marked his first start in more than 18 months by scoring from close range. The sinbinning of Sau for a deliberate knock-on disadvantaged them further, and within a minute Leinster exploited the extra space in devastating fashion when Cian Kelleher slid in at the right corner to touch down a Harry Byrne chip.
The winger soon scored again, this time from an O’Brien pass, and the half-century was in sight. But, with both coaches going to their benches, Leinster lost their shape a little and Edinburgh began to show a little more in attack, where Miller continued to be the pick of their ball-carriers.
Eventually, after a flurry of penalties, substitute scrum-half Nic Groom tapped and ran and scored, and Chamberlain’s two points took the visitors into double figures. By that time flanker Rory Darge had come on for his debut, replacing lock Andrew Davidson, with Magnus Bradbury moving up from the back row to the second. There was still plenty time for Leinster to hit back, and they did so when Kelleher completed his hat-trick after being put through by Scott Penny.
Leinster: J O’Brien; C Kelleher, L Turner, C Frawley, D Kearney; H Byrne (D Hawkshaw 55), L McGrath (H O’Sullivan 58); P Dooley (M Milne 51), J Tracy (D Sheehan 51), M Bent (C Parker 51), D Toner (R Molony 69), S Fardy, D Leavy (R Baird 58), S Penny, R Ruddock (captain) (J Murphy 51).
Edinburgh: J Blain; E Sau, M Bennett (J Johnstone 23), C Dean, J Farndale (C Shiel 69); N Chamberlain, H Pyrgos (captain) (N Groom 48); P Schoeman (S Grahamslaw 68), D Cherry (M Willemse 57), L Atalifo (D Gamble 52), A Ferreira (J Hodgson 57), A Davidson (R Darge 63), M Bradbury, L Crosbie, A Miller.
Referee: C Evans (Wales).
Scorers: Leinster: Tries: Kearney, McGrath 2, Dooley, Leavy, Kelleher 3. Cons: Frawley 5.
Edinburgh: Try: Groom. Con: Chamberlain. Pen: Chamberlain.
Scoring sequence (Leinster first): 5-0, 10-0, 12-0, 12-3, 17-3, 19-3, 24-3, 26-3 half-time, 31-3, 33-3, 38-3, 43-3, 45-3, 45-8, 45-10, 50-10.
Yellow card: Edinburgh: Sau.
Meanwhile, PRO14 have confirmed the postponement of Edinburgh’s game against the Dragons, which had been due to take place next Monday. It is the third Dragons match to be postponed after a number of players in their squad tested positive for Covid-19, and is now due to be played early next year. Dragons’ game against Glasgow at Scotstoun, which had been due to be played tonight (Monday 16), is now scheduled for Saturday 5 December.
The league has also announced that the first 1872 Cup match of the season will be held at Scotstoun on Sunday 27 December, kicking off at 3pm. The return match at BT Murrayfield will be six days later, again with a 3pm kick-off.