Sport Rugby

Saturday 24 February 2018

Leinster pay high price for shuffling their pack

Edinburgh 11 Leinster 6

Brian O'Driscoll
Brian O'Driscoll

O'Connor's fringe men come unstuck as defensive slip proves crucial in tight battle

Given the make-up of their team and the changes to their pack after Heineken Cup action, Leinster suffered a not unexpected defeat to Edinburgh in this Pro12 match at a wet and windy Murrayfield.

The closeness of the scoreline was a reflection of the balance of play and to a greater extent the overhead conditions.

Both sides had chances but in the abysmal conditions, attacking rugby was always going to come off second best. Still Matt O'Connor's side helped themselves to a bonus point and with Glasgow's match against Treviso called off, the Blues still hold second place in the table.

In defeat there were encouraging displays from back-rows Shane Jennings and Jordi Murphy and good contributions from the cast of front-row forwards. But in the end the match hinged on one defensive slip and sadly for Leinster it was the visitors who committed the costly error.

After absorbing some early pressure, Leinster, using the high kick from Ian Madigan to good effect, began to gain territorial advantage and when they worked an overlap, Murphy, after taking a pass from fellow back-row Shane Jennings, had a charge at the line only to be met by the home side's cover defence.

Edinburgh survived the two subsequent scrums but when the Scots transgressed just outside their own '22', Madigan was on target for the opening points of the match.

But Leinster's lead was not long lasting as Edinburgh, inspired by a break from Greig Laidlaw, drove at the visitors' line ferociously. Leinster's fringe defence was solid but when the ball was spun wide, a gap appeared that allowed Edinburgh out-half Greig Tonks to supply the scoring pass to winger Doug Fife.

Then after a period of pressure on the Leinster line the visitors conceded a penalty at the ruck, giving Laidlaw a simple kick at goal to increase his side's lead to 8-3, and despite further pressure from Edinburgh just before half-time that remained the interval score.

SKILLS

Two minutes into the second half Edinburgh were penalised for coming into the side of a ruck and again Madigan showed his goal-kicking skills to bring Leinster within two points. But three minutes later Laidlaw kicked his second goal after Leinster were penalised for not releasing in the tackle.

Leinster's response was a period of positive rugby and good pivotal control from Madigan, who twice triggered wide attacks with good judgment of the pass that ended with winger Darragh Fanning being forced into touch two metres from the line.

The visitors had a opportunity to put further pressure on Edinburgh with a penalty kick to the corner, only for Madigan to misjudge the angle, allowing home full-back Jack Cuthbert to regain territory.

Jimmy Gopperth replaced Madigan but the Kiwi out-half's first contribution was an over-cooked kick to touch.

When Laidlaw struck with the boot after his own break, the ball bobbled into touch five metres from the Leinster line. From the resultant line-out Edinburgh came close to scoring when an inside pass from Tonks gave flanker Cornell de Preez a tilt at the line, glory being denied by desperate Leinster tackling.

A dynamic driving maul by the Edinburgh forwards forced the visitors to concede a penalty but this time Laidlaw, kicking into the wind, was short with his attempt.

Leinster, having made a number of substitutions, found a late battery of energy and from a line-out in the corner the visitors launched a series of drives at the Edinburgh line. But it came to naught when Leinster, after being unable to breach the home defence, spilled ball close to the line giving Edinburgh a scrum , a reprieve and ultimately victory.

Edinburgh -- J Cuthbert; D Fife (S Beard 60), N De Luca, B Atiga, T Brown; G Tonks, G Laidlaw; A Dickinson (W Blaauw), R Ford (A Lutui), WP Nel (G Cross); G Gilchrist, O Atkins (S Cox 61); C du Preez, R Grant, D Denton

Leinster -- Z Kirchner; D Fanning (B Macken 74), B O'Driscoll, N Reid, L Fitzgerald; I Madigan (J Gopperth 60), I Boss; M Bent, A Dundon, M Moore (T Furlong 74); L Cullen, T Denton (Q Roux 64); K McLaughlin (D Ryan 60), S Jennings, J Murphy

Ref -- P Fitzbgibbon (IRFU)

Irish Independent

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