Wednesday 17 July 2019

O'Shea sticks his hand up as Leinster 'finish on high note'

Edinburgh 23 Leinster36

Dave Kearney, Leinster, is tackled by Tom Brown, Edinburgh.
Dave Kearney, Leinster, is tackled by Tom Brown, Edinburgh.
Ian Madigan, Leinster, makes a break. Guinness PRO12, Round 22, Edinburgh v Leinster (Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE)
Luke McGrath, Leinster, goes over to score his side's fifth try during the Guinness PRO12, Round 22, Edinburgh v Leinster (Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE)
Ian Madigan, Leinster, is tackled by Tom Heathcote, Edinburgh (Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE)

Leinster signed off a forgettable season with a winning performance against Edinburgh at Murrayfield to shatter their hosts' slim hopes of achieving European Cup qualification.

Edinburgh needed a win for a play-off against Gloucester and a possible match against the seventh-placed team in the French Top 14, as well as Pro12 results elsewhere working in their favour.

But the complex arithmetic to determine whether Edinburgh would advance proved unnecessary after the Scots were subdued by a lively Leinster team.

By contrast Leinster came to Murrayfield with nothing at stake, with only pride and passion the motivational forces.

Important for Leinster head coach Matt O'Connor, however, was assessing the form of a number of fringe players.

"We've got the World Cup just round the corner," said O'Connor, who is likely to lose a fair proportion of his players to the Ireland squad. So O'Connor was delighted with encouraging displays from the likes of centre Colm O'Shea, who could well find himself a regular in the Leinster side in the early part of next season.

"Colm had a good game. He played for us a couple of seasons ago but he's been unlucky with injuries," said O'Connor.

"Our ability to distribute in midfield gave us a lot of space out wide."

But it was Ian Madigan who stole the show, and not for the first time at Murrayfield, the out-half earning the man of the match accolade after a fine goal-kicking display that accounted for four conversions and a dropped goal complemented by intelligent midfield play that gave the Leinster backline poise and purpose.

O'Connor purred with satisfaction, too, at his side's tally of five tries.

"We've been a little disappointed in how we performed in the league this season. So the guys were positive about finishing on a high note," he said.

"We knew we had to be good against Edinburgh and the weather was good so we were able to put on a performance," suggested O'Connor, who had to make two changes in the first five minutes.

First Mike McCarthy went off with a head knock and then his replacement, Tom Denton, was forced to retire two minutes later after sustaining a torn bicep.

But the disruption did little to stop the Leinster pack from competing in crucial areas, notably the breakdown, where Jamie Heaslip impressed with his ball-winning qualities.

Leinster broke the early stalemate with a converted try from centre Noel Reid, taking a delicately delivered reverse pass from Sean O'Brien.

Edinburgh, however, replied positively with a converted touchdown from flanker Hamish Watson to level the scores at 10-10, only for replacement Jack Conan to romp in under the posts after clever play by Madigan and Dave Kearney for a 17-10 interval lead.

Then after Edinburgh had narrowed the gap with a penalty from Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Leinster stretched their lead with a try in the corner from winger Zane Kirchner made by Madigan's long pass.

Edinburgh then took the lead with a try from wing Tim Visser, and the conversion and a penalty goal by Hidalgo-Clyne.

With the game in the balance, Leinster won a ball against the head, triggering a series of attacks that ended with flanker Jordi Murphy crashing over and Madigan converting.

Any hope Edinburgh had of rescuing the game were then dashed as replacement scrum half Luke McGrath dashed in for his side's fifth try converted yet again by Madigan to seal an impressive win.

Edinburgh - J Cuthbert; D Fife, S Beard (T Brown 59), A Strauss, T Visser; T Heathcote, S Hidalgo-Clyne (N Fowles 78); A Dickinson (R Sutherland 76), R Ford (N Cochrane 63), J Andress (S Berghan 39), A Bresler (O Atkins 57), B Toolis, F McKenzie, H Watson, C Du Preez

Leinster - R Kearney; Z Kirchner, C O'Shea, N Reid (J Gopperth 73), D Kearney; I Madigan, I Boss (L McGrath 66); J McGrath, R Strauss, M Ross (T Furlong 71), D Toner, M McCarthy (T Denton 3, J Conan 5), J Murphy, S O'Brien, J Heaslip

Ref - N Owens (WRU)

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