Leinster flex their muscle in Edinburgh arm-wrestle to claim five hard-earned points
Leinster flex their muscle in Edinburgh arm-wrestle to claim five hard-earned points

Leinster flex their muscle in Edinburgh arm-wrestle to claim five hard-earned points

Leinster 31Edinburgh 7

Ryan Bailey reports from the RDS

AS PROMISED, EDINBURGH threw everything at Leinster in this arm-wrestle of a contest, but not many sides come here and leave unscathed when their masterplan revolves around battering and bludgeoning the defending Pro14 and European champions. 

Leo Cullen’s side were forced to dig deep in the first half, particularly defensively as they were put under huge pressure by a physically-imposing Edinburgh outfit, but class always tells and so it proved, rather inevitably, on this occasion. 

The hosts led 12-0 at the break courtesy of tries from Fergus McFadden and James Lowe and although Richard Cockerill’s Scots briefly threatened a second-half response, Leinster — just as they did last week — turned the screw and pulled clear for a third win of the season. 

Jordan Larmour danced his way through for Leinster’s third score before Johnny Sexton, on the occasion of his 150th Leinster appearance, completed the bonus-point win as Edinburgh were left battered, bruised and well beaten in the end. 

There was still time for Garry Ringrose to round off another hugely encouraging night for the eastern province with a breakaway score, as they moved top of Conference B, with a five-try to one victory.

Cian Healy was named man-of-the-match for a sensational performance, while Josh van der Flier led a huge defensive effort from the hosts with the returning James Lowe a livewire throughout and Larmour’s energetic display embellished by another fine finish. 

Edinburgh finished the game with 14 men after replacement prop Pierre Schoeman was shown red for leading with the elbow on the fit-again Dan Leavy, whose return only lasted a couple minutes while James Ryan went off in the first-half with a suspected concussion.

Lowe finished brilliantly at the end of the first half. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Overall, through, it was a good night’s work for Cullen’s side ahead of the upcoming Pro14 inter-pros as Leinster continue to build momentum, with the province moving through the gears to come out the right side of a stern test of their physical and mental strengths. 

They passed it comfortably in the end, but there was no doubt they were made to work for it. 

Teak-tough Edinburgh made their intentions known from the outset, using a brawny front five to hammer away at Leinster’s rearguard only for the obstinate blue wall to shut the door and Ryan to complete the turnover for an early pressure-relieving penalty.

The Ireland second row provided quick ball off the resulting lineout for Luke McGrath to get Leinster’s attack up and running for the first time, with Robbie Henshaw standing at first receiver to feed Jack Conan as the midfield battering ram.

When the ball came back this way, Sexton was the the pivot in a wrap-around move but Leinster’s captain was lined up by Magnus Bradbury a mile off and the Edinburgh number eight timed his hit, rattling Sexton as he fed the looping Ringrose.

Sexton was slow to get up, requiring assistance from two doctors, but he was back on his feet to rejoin play as Leinster pushed and probed through 30 energy-sapping phases under the Edinburgh posts, which would yield no return as the visitors worked tirelessly to plug the gaps when Lowe and then Healy put the head down for the line, before McGrath knocked on after a rolling maul had brought the hosts within striking distance.

Leinster’s breakthrough score wasn’t long in coming, though. A questionable clearing kick from Edinburgh fullback Dougie Fife kept the visitors pinned inside their own 22 and then Devin Toner used that six foot 10 inch frame of his to lean over the ruck and block down Sean Kennedy’s box-kick, before showing an impressive turn of pace to latch onto the loose ball, and then dexterity to stoop down and scoop it up.

Hauled down just short by the Kennedy as the scrum-half looked to make amends, van der Flier hit the ruck at speed, allowing McFadden to swivel and finish for a hard-earned seven points.

If there was an element of good fortune about the first try, Leinster’s second on the stroke of half-time was sublime not just for the creative nature of the score as Lowe touched down one-handed in the corner, but having defended their line with stoic resistance for the preceding 10 minutes, and 39 pick-and-jam phases, the province struck at the other end to stamp their authority on the scoreboard at the break.

Even after the loss of Ryan after he came off the line quickly and got a bang to his head when chopping Ben Toolis down, Leinster were unwavering defensively and a huge set, led by the tireless van der Flier, Healy and Toner, drove Edinburgh away from the whitewash before James Ritchie knocked on in contact and Conan swooped to snatch possession back.

Healy was outstanding for Leinster. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Cockerill would have been frustrated to watch his side go through sustained periods of pressure without coming away with any points, and even more so when Leinster executed a slick set-piece move off a lineout which referee Dan Jones had overturned with the assistance of his TMO.

But this was Leinster at their very best, with Felipe Contempomi’s attacking philosophy already evident.

Henshaw again stood at first receiver off the lineout, this time barrelling up the centre, before quick ball allowed McGrath link with Toner, who showed deft hands in midfield, and Sexton fed Larmour for the fullback to offload it out the back, with the irrepressible Lowe doing the rest for a 12-0 half-time lead which somewhat flattered the home side.

Edinburgh were eventually rewarded four minutes into the second period, as they added variety and subtlety to their attack which made all the difference.

With Leinster caught narrow on this near side, Chris Dean galloped into space and although there was a hint of a forward pass in the build-up, the visitors recycled and persevered, stretching the blue shirts and Bradbury boshed his way towards the line before applying the finish with an out-stretched arm.

While the officials turned a blind eye at one end, Jones, albeit correctly, chalked off an instant Leinster riposte at the other as van der Flier’s final pass for Lowe on the far side was clearly forward, but it mattered little as the forwards turned the screw from the resulting set-piece to create the platform for Larmour to dance through two tackles and dot down under the sticks for a 19-7 lead.

Sean Cronin and Tadhg Furlong made an immediate impact as a huge shove earned the scrum penalty, and from the lineout Leinster moved it swiftly and accurately, as Henshaw’s delightful hands for Sexton created the overlap and space for Larmour to do his thing, as the fullback made light work of a difficult finish given he still had two Edinburgh defenders to beat.

Just as they did last week against Dragons, Leinster put their foot on the pedal and never took it off to claim the bonus-point try with plenty left to spare as Sexton marked his landmark appearance with a 25th try for the province, after the pack had bludgeoned Edinburgh into submission with a series of powerful scrums.

Leinster sit top of the Conference B after four rounds. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Edinburgh, having expended huge energy resources in their first-half effort, were powerless to prevent Leinster storming to victory and their race was very much run when Schoeman was dismissed, before Ringrose streaked clear for Leinster’s fifth. 

Edinburgh have never won here before, and while they surely made a game of it, Leinster’s accuracy, clinical edge and moments of quality ultimately told. There was only ever going to be one winner. 

Leinster scorers:

Tries: Fergus McFadden, James Lowe, Jordan Larmour, Johnny Sexton, Garry Ringrose. 
Conversions: Johnny Sexton [3 from 4], Ross Byrne [0 from 1] 

Edinburgh scorers:

Tries: Magnus Bradbury 
Conversions: Jaco van der Walt [1 from 1]

LEINSTER: 15. Jordan Larmour, 14. Fergus McFadden, 13. Garry Ringrose, 12. Robbie Henshaw (Joe Tomane 69′), 11. James Lowe, 10. Johnny Sexton (captain)(Ross Byrne 66′), 9. Luke McGrath (Jamison Gibson-Park 66′); 1. Cian Healy (Peter Dooley 66′), 2. James Tracy (Sean Cronin 49′), 3. Michael Bent (Tadhg Furlong 49′), 4. Devin Toner, 5. James Ryan (Mick Kearney 21′), 6. Max Deegan (Dan Leavy 66′), 7. Josh van der Flier, 8. Jack Conan. 

EDINBURGH: 15. Dougie Fife, 14. Jamie Farndale, 13. Chris Dean (Johnstone 69′), 12. Juan Pablo Socino, 11. Duhan van der Merwe (Dell 74′), 10. Jaco van der Walt (Hickey 60′), 9. Sean Kennedy; 1. Allan Dell (Schoeman 49′), 2. Ross Ford (Cherry 56′), 3. Simon Berghan (McCallum 48′), 4. Fraser McKenzie (captain), 5. Ben Toolis (Hunter-Hill 66′), 6. Luke Hamilton, 7. Jamie Ritchie, 8. Magnus Bradbury (Crosbie 67′).

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Referee: Dan Jones [WRU].

Attendance: 13,476.

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