Monday 20 January 2020

McFadden double keeps Leinster on track

Leinster 30 Edinburgh 23

Fergus McFadden is congratulated by his Leinster team-mate Ben Te'o after scoring his side's fourth try (SPORTSFILE)
Fergus McFadden is congratulated by his Leinster team-mate Ben Te'o after scoring his side's fourth try (SPORTSFILE)
Ross Molony is tackled by Cornell Du Preez (SPORTSFILE)
Josh van der Flier on his way to scoring his side's second try despite the tackle of Chris Dean (SPORTSFILE)
Damien Hoyland is tackled by Fergus McFadden (SPORTSFILE)
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

After 40 minutes of the scrappiest rugby seen all season, Leinster eventually clicked into gear and held on to beat a stubborn Edinburgh outfit at the RDS.

Four second-half tries, two from Fergus McFadden, in 23 minutes kept Leinster on course for a home semi-final but it was far from a flawless performance.

Rob Kearney returned from a hamstring injury unscathed as he got through 80 minutes for only the fourth time in the league this season, while Luke Fitzgerald impressed on his comeback.


As the team with the best defensive record in the Pro12, conceding 23 points which included three tries won't have gone down well as much sterner tests lie ahead.

Ben Te'o's powerful performance in midfield served as an untimely reminder of how much Leinster have developed the rugby league convert since he arrived at the club two years ago.

The New Zealander who represented Samoa in the 2008 rugby league World Cup was yesterday singled out by England coach Eddie Jones as a player who he plans to have in his squad.

Te'o qualifies to play for England through his mother and will be eligible to play for them when he joins Worcester Warriors next season. Leinster supporters will be disappointed to see him go.

Jason Tovey and Madigan exchanged early penalties when both teams were penalised for not rolling away after a frenetic opening.

Madigan's second penalty after 11 minutes put the hosts in front and just as they looked like taking control of the half, their countless errors brought a halt to any sort of momentum.

The Scots' game-plan was simple but effective in the first half as they looked to slow the ball down at the breakdown at every opportunity.

Their penalty count would quickly build up, however, and referee Marius Mitrea's patience eventually ran thin and Jamie Ritchie was sent to the bin seven minutes from the break.

Madigan sent the resulting penalty deep into Edinburgh territory but Leinster's basic skills again cost them as Noel Reid threw a sloppy wayward pass.

Leinster would butcher another try-scoring opportunity on the stroke of half-time when Madigan's ambitious pass failed to find Richardt Strauss, and that typified an awful half of rugby.

But thankfully for the 10,233 supporters inside a freezing RDS, as long as Fitzgerald is on the pitch, he is capable of creating something out of nothing and so it proved again four minutes after the restart.

Fitzgerald ghosted in off his wing and collected a disguised inside pass off Madigan. After showing a great turn of pace, Fitzgerald passed back inside for Luke McGrath, who had run a good support line as Leinster's attack finally clicked.

Madigan converted but just three minutes later Leinster allowed Edinburgh in for a really soft try as Tovey's pass completely caught McFadden out and Tom Brown dived over in the corner.

Back came Leinster. Reid atoned for his first-half errors as his sumptuous offload found Josh van der Flier, who still had plenty of work to do to score but he managed to do so. Madigan's conversion pushed Leinster into a 20-8 lead.

The Edinburgh defence was being punctured far too easily at this stage and Leinster again punished them when some slick passing from Reid and Fitzgerald put McFadden over in the corner for a third try.

The home side's confidence was high but Madigan's telegraphed pass was easily intercepted by Mike Allan, who scampered clear to score. Tovey's conversion cut the gap to 10 points but Leinster again hit back.

Jordi Murphy did well initially to keep the ball alive and more crisp Leinster passing created the opening for McFadden to get over in the same corner for a 30-15 lead.

Edinburgh refused to lie down and Sean Kennedy's try with nine minutes left on the clock left Leinster facing a nervy finish.

Sam Hidalgo-Clyne's fired over a late penalty as Edinburgh went in search of a converted try to draw level but Leinster had just enough to hold on to a precious victory that keeps them top of the table.

Leinster - R Kearney; F McFadden (Fitzgerald 77), B Te'o, N Reid, L Fitzgerald (D Kearney 75); I Madigan (C Marsh 65), L McGrath (E Reddan 65); C Healy (P Dooley 53) (Healy 75), R Strauss (S Cronin 53), M Ross (T Furlong 53); R Molony (D Toner 65), M Kearney; R Ruddock (capt) (D Ryan 52), J Van der Flier, J Murphy.

Edinburgh - B Kinghorn (M Bradbury 72); D Hoyland, C Dean (S Kennedy h/t), P Burleigh (M Allan h/t), T Brown; J Tovey, S Hidalgo-Clyne; A Dickinson (R Sutherland 65), R Ford (capt) (S McInally 54), WP Nel (J Andress 65); A Bresler (A Toolis 52), B Toolis; J Ritchie, J Hardie (H Watson 59), C Du Preez.

Ref - M Mitrea (FIR)

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