Sunday 18 February 2018

O'Driscoll takes first step for dominant Leinster

Edinburgh 16
Leinster 31

Brian O'Driscoll is tackled by Allan Jacobsen of Edinburgh.
Brian O'Driscoll is tackled by Allan Jacobsen of Edinburgh.

Leinster produced a confident performance at Murrayfield to achieve their second successive victory in the Pro12 League after dominating Edinburgh throughout.

The return of Brian O'Driscoll, Rob Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald helped enormously, but it was the power of the Leinster pack coupled with a tight defence that allowed the Heineken Cup champions to emerge as clear winners.

Leinster's deep kick-off had Edinburgh temporarily on the ropes as the visitors produced several waves of attacks which ended after O'Driscoll failed to hold an inside pass from Jonathan Sexton.

Edinburgh had a further reprieve with a penalty kick to touch, but the Scottish province failed to use good line-out ball. Then from the second line-out of the match, Leinster moved the ball expertly to give Fionn Carr a run, but, when the winger kicked ahead, Edinburgh's defence was able to deal with the situation.

But Edinburgh were immediately put under pressure at a scrum, resulting in a penalty to Leinster and a kick to the corner. The home side defended the ensuing driven line-out, but when Edinburgh were penalised again, Leinster opted for a scrum – only for the decision to backfire after Edinburgh produced a successful turnover.

Having defended stoutly, Edinburgh showed their attacking game with exciting play initiated by out-half Piers Francis, only for prop Allan Jacobsen to spill a vital pass. But at the resulting scrum Leinster were penalised, allowing Greig Laidlaw to claim three points for his side.

The scores were quickly levelled in similar style when Sexton slotted the ball between the uprights following a high tackle on O'Driscoll as the centre threatened to split the Edinburgh defence.

Edinburgh were then penalised again, but this time Sexton was wide of the target, leaving the two sides locked at 3-3. Leinster were looking sharp with ball in hand in a varied repertoire of attacking moves that had a nervous Edinburgh side having to put in a massive number of tackles and when Sexton flipped an inside pass to Fitzgerald, the home side were again on red alert.

The move ended with Edinburgh straying offside, allowing Sexton to kick to the corner and the forwards to drive the line-out.

Edinburgh No 8 David Denton was judged to have stopped the drive illegally, resulting in a yellow card for the Scotland back-row and penalty try for Leinster, which was easily converted by Sexton.

Leinster quickly used their one-man advantage to launch an attack from the restart and when Sean Cronin prised open the Edinburgh defence the ball was spun wide for Gordon D'Arcy to stroll over for his side's second try, again converted by Sexton.

Then right on half-time Leinster were penalised at the contact area, giving Laidlaw his second penalty of the evening – but the visitors held a more than useful 17-6 half-time lead.

Leinster were into an immediate attacking mindset at the beginning of the second half as Sexton found touch just a metre from the Edinburgh line. But the home side took a quick throw and relieved pressure on themselves.

Minutes later, after a penalty kick to the corner by Sexton, Leinster attacked from the ensuing line-out. Devin Toner made the initial surge and then, when the ball was moved right, Cian Healy appeared to stretch his arm out to dot the ball down for a try, but the referee had spotted an earlier crossing offence and Edinburgh were again handed a reprieve.

Edinburgh's misfortunes were made worse with an injury to the league's top scorer, Tim Visser, following his tackle on Carr. But a drop-goal by Piers Francis helped to revive confidence in the home side.

But it was soon dented when, with some vintage handling, replacement Shane Jennings dummied his way through the Edinburgh defence before offloading to Sexton for an impressive try, which the out-half converted for a 24-9 lead.

Spurred on by the prospect of an embarrassing scoreline, Edinburgh galvanised themselves into an attacking force, but their attempt to get the ball over the line was thwarted by illegal poaching from Jamie Heaslip that earned the Leinster back-row a sin-bin.

But far from being disadvantaged Leinster launched themselves at the Edinburgh line ending with replacement Ian Madigan plunging over for the bonus-point try, converted by Sexton.

A late try for Edinburgh by prop Willem Nel and the conversion by Francis made the scoreline look better for Edinburgh, but it could not disguise a comprehensive win for Leinster.

Edinburgh – G Tonks; D Fife, M Scott, B Atiga (J King 40), T Visser (S Visser 47); P Francis, G Laidlaw (R Rees 73); A Jacobsen (R Hislop 61), A Titterell (S Lawrie 61), W Nel (G Cross 76 ), G Gilchrist, S Cox, S McInally (R Grant 45), D Basilaia (P Parker 54), D Denton.

Leinster – R Kearney (A Conway 62); F Carr, B O'Driscoll, G D'Arcy (I Boss 68), L Fitzgerald (I Madigan 62); J Sexton, E Reddan (I Boss ); C Healy (H Van Der Merwe 61), S Cronin (A Dundon 68), M Ross (M Bent 62), L Cullen, D Toner (T Denton 58), K McLauglin (S Jennings 47), S O'Brien, J Heaslip.

ReF – I Davies (Wales).

Irish Independent

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