Wednesday 19 December 2018

Healy stars as Leinster move through the gears to see off Edinburgh at the RDS

Leinster 31 Edinburgh 7

Jonathan Sexton of Leinster scores his side's fourth try despite the tackle of Juan Pablo Socino of Edinburgh during the Guinness PRO14 Round 4 match between Leinster and Edinburgh at the RDS Arena in Dublin.
Jonathan Sexton of Leinster scores his side's fourth try despite the tackle of Juan Pablo Socino of Edinburgh during the Guinness PRO14 Round 4 match between Leinster and Edinburgh at the RDS Arena in Dublin.
David Kelly

David Kelly

Leinster needed this, a proper test of their physical and mental strengths ahead of a crucial month of interprovincial and European action.

It took them some time to hit their straps but once they ground down the gritty resistance of a typically teak-tough Richard Cockerill-coached side, there was only going to be one winner.

This was a victory of decent substance – marshalled by the man of the match Cian Healy - and occasionally flashes of typical style from the three-quarters.

When James Lowe, three minutes before the break, added to Fergus McFadden's 15th minute try to give the home side a 12-0 lead at tea-time, it was only a matter of when they would broach bonus point territory.

Edinburgh stirred briefly after the break thanks to Magnus Bradbury's try but the home side roused themselves sufficiently to dominate thereafter.

Jordan Larmour, scintillating all night, scored the third before captain Jonathan Sexton confirmed the try bonus.

The excellent Garry Ringrose made the gamblers happy (the handicap was -23) by adding a fifth in injury time.

Leinster will also hope that James Ryan and Dan Leavy emerge safely through the week after departing for Head Injury Assessments; in the latter's case, Peter Schoeman was red-carded for leading with his arm in the carry.

Edinburgh had never won here before and, given the unfamiliar side they sent across the water, it seemed the miserable record wasn't causing them sleepless nights.

But they compensated for their lack of renown with a consummate appetite for the physical battle; at one stage, they repelled Leinster for twenty phases and counting.

But for a couple of spillages with the line in sight, Leinster could have been out of sight in the first-half.

As it was, they had to make do with McFadden's 15th minute opener; not the result of a sweeping back-line movement, rather the bionic elongation of Devin Toner's long arm which blocked down the hapless scrum-half Sean Kennedy's kick from just inside the 22.

Toner scampered after the loose ball, Kennedy scrambled atop the human giraffe's back as if the Meathman were a novelty funfair ride, before Toner recycled and allowed his team-mate to run for home.

Sexton converted in what was a busy time for the captain, celebrating his 150th cap.

He made numerous tackles and clear-outs, put in a couple of deliciously testing high kicks and was clattered by Luke Hamilton – fairly – in the guts when taking the ball to the line for a characteristically brave pass.

Temporarily slumped to his knees, Sexton needed to spill his guts too; it reminded one of Brian O'Driscoll's similar torment across the road in a European game all those years ago.

Leinster played on; Sexton, within moments returned to the fray, clattering some prone ruck-spoiler at a breakdown as the home side yet again fell short when a try should have came their way from some patient jams close in.

Edinburgh had only one real chance to score and it took a long five minutes – some 35 phases – of extraordinary defensive commitment from Leinster close to their own line to deny the visitors any succour.

James Ryan had kicked off the resistance to the siege but sadly was lost to a HIA, from which he didn't return; he may now have to rest awhile.

The half then seemed to hinge on a belatedly correct call to award Leinster a lineout on the Edinburgh 22, when the assistant had initially flagged the other way before Dan Jones caught a glimpse of the error on the big screen indiscreetly aided by the howling, derisive crowd.

That allowed Leinster to deliver one of Felipe Contepomi's sweeping first phase moves; completed with aplomb by Jordan Larmour's delicious off-load for Lowe to pounce, smiling as always, in the corner.

In fairness to Edinburgh, they didn't leave their spirits in the dressing-room.

After Duhan van der Merwe's rampaging run down the left had provided the territorial gain, they smashed Leinster up the middle during the opening throes of act two and earned just reward when Magnus Bradbury busted through Luke McGrath and Garry Ringrose to score from no distance.

At 12-7, there was the hint of a contest again. Not for long; about three minutes, in fact.

Leinster had a score disallowed almost immediately upon the restart after opening the Edinburgh defence on the left but they did score legally from their next assault.

Miffed by their try being ruled out; Leinster won a scrum against the head and, when the ball was worked infield from left to right, Larmour found himself in a tight space ten yards out.

A feint here and a jink off his right step there, the white shirts evaporated into thin air as the gifted full-back ghosted through to score a wonderful individual effort, back-boned by his team's grit and graft.

Now it was bonus point time; captain Sexton delivered it with 15 minutes to go off another first-phase move, this time a scrum ten metres out, towards the left corner of the main stand.

He left himself with a difficult conversion but dispatched with almost careless ease before making way for Ross Byrne; another job done and, like so many of them before, a job done very well indeed.

 

Leinster - J Larmour; F McFadden, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, (J Tomane 69) J Lowe; J Sexton capt (R Byrne 67), L McGrath (J Gibson-Park 67); C Healy (P Dooley 67), J Tracy (S Cronin 49), M Bent (T Furlong 49); D Toner, J Ryan (M Kearney HIA 21-31); M Deegan (D Leavy 67), J van der Flier, J Conan.

Reps: S Cronin, P Dooley, T Furlong, M Kearney, D Leavy, J Gibson-Park, R Byrne, J Tomane.

Edinburgh - D Fife; J Farndale, C Dean (J Johnstone 69), JP Socino, D van der Merwe (A Dell 74); J van der Walt (S Hickey 60), S Kennedy (N Fowles 48); A Dell (P Schoeman 49), R Ford (D Cherry 56), S Berghan (M McCallum 48), F McKenzie (capt), B Toolis (C Hunter-Hill 66), L Hamilton, J Ritchie, M Bradbury (L Crosbie 67) .

Reps: D Cherry, P Schoeman, M McCallum, C Hunter-Hill, L Crosbie, N Fowles, S Hickey, J Johnstone.

Ref - D Jones (WRU)

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