PRO12: Edinburgh 20-33 Leinster

THIS was progress of a sort for Edinburgh but some hopelessly weak defending during the first half dished up four avoidable tries, and left them with too much to do after the break.  While the second half brought increased focus and some evidence that a more expansive game-plan is being constructed, the hosts then let all their good work slip away in the final few minutes and emerged from the game with nothing more than a bitter sense of wasted opportunity.

“Defensively we were very, very poor. We made too many errors, were very poor defensively, and I think that was the key to the whole game. It was a good night to play rugby, and we started tremendously, but in my view all their tries were soft tries. At 26-20 we had every prospect of winning that game, but then at the end we let ourselves down,” said head coach Alan Solomons.

It started encouragingly enough for Edinburgh with Sasa Tolifau bursting through midfield in the opening play of the match to establish the field position for Phil Burleigh to thread a dainty toe-poke into the corner, which Mike Allen dived onto with such vigour that he ended up twisting his neck painfully as he face-planted the turf.

The winger battled on manfully for a while, but eventually had to throw in the towel after 23 minutes – by which point Edinburgh had surrendered two painfully soft tries. The first of those scores came after two flat passes from a ruck in front of the posts opened up a yawning gap which Daniel Leavy happily strolled through, and the second was scored by Garry Ringrose after Blair Kinghorn had darted out of the line in a desperate and futile attempt to cut out an overlap on the right.

By this point, Tolifau had also been taken off. He had apparently taken a knock, but Solomons conceded afterwards that the switch had been at least partially tactical, with Junior Rosalea being charged with shoring up Edinburgh’s porous midfield.

It could have been worse. It had looked for a moment like Ringrose was going to get two touch-downs in as many minutes when he was put into space on the right touchline by Nacewa, who had out-jumped Glenn Bryce for a high ball, but Duncan Weir did exceptionally well to get across and make the try saving tackle.

However, that was only a brief respite in Edinburgh’s misery, with Nacewa streaking just before the half hour mark, and scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park scrambled over four minutes before the break to secure the bonus point and ensure that the crowd of 3,484 were not living in hope of a feast of drama and tension during the second half.

Hamish Watson grabbed a score back for Edinburgh early in the second half after a period of pressure focussed on their trademark tight driving game, and spurred on by this success the hosts started using some of the wide open spaces at Murrayfield with some success – but a pass from Kinghorn towards Tom Brown floated harmlessly into touch on the left, and then Glenn Bryce’s foot slipped out of play on the opposite touchline as he gathered a bouncing ball and charged for the corner a few moment later.

Accuracy was letting Edinburgh down on a fine night for rugby, but at least we were seeing that there was some ambition to play more varied game there.

A searing outside break from Kinghorn as the game moved into the final ten minutes opened Leinster up, and should have led to a try, but Fraser McKenzie’s pass bumped along the ground and killed all momentum.

To their credit, Edinburgh kept the pressure on, and Magnus Bradbury eventually rumbled over, which brought Edinburgh to within a converted try of the lead with five minutes to go – but they couldn’t hold onto the ball as they tried to mount an audacious late smash-and-grab, and Leavy scrambled over in the final play of the match to deprive the hosts of the consolation of a losing bonus point.

  • Meanwhile, Glasgow Warriors went down 23-19 away to Cardiff Blues.

Teams –

Edinburgh: G Bryce; M Allen (B Kinghorn10-20, 23), S Tofilau (S Rasolea 25), P Burleigh, T Brown; D Weir, N Fowles (S Hidalgo-Clyne 48); R Sutherland (A Dell 56), R Ford (S McInally 48), W Nel (K Bryce 67), B Toolis, G Gilchrist© (F McKenzie 65), M Bradbury, H Watson, V Fihaki (Du Preez 56).

Leinster: Z Kirchener; I Nacewa©, G Ringrose, N Reid, D Kearney; J Carbery, J Gibson-Park (L McGrath 60); J McGrath (C Healy 48), S Cronin (B Byrne 48), M Ross (T Furlong 48), D Toner, M McCarthy (R Malony 56), J Murphy (J van der Flier 56), D Leavy, J Heaslip.

Scorers –

Edinburgh: Try: Allen, Watson, Bradbury; Con: Weir; Pen: Weir.

Leinster: Try: Leavy 2, Ringrose, Nacewa, Gibson-Park; Con: Nacewa 4.

Yellow cards –                                                                                

Edinburgh: Gilchrist

Leinster: Leavy

Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)

Scoring sequence (Edinburgh first): 5-0, 8-0, 8-5, 8-7, 8-12, 8-14, 8-19, 8-21, 8-26 (h-t)  13-26, 15-26, 20-26, 20-31, 20-33

Image: Craig Watson

About David Barnes 4026 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.