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BRAVE EMBRA SECURE BONUS AT RDS. AND IT COULD HAVE BEEN MORE ...

Leinster: 30 (6) Edinburgh Rugby:23 (3)



As we enter the business end of the season, top four and top six positions are at stake and the Gunners were sitting just off sixth position at kick off.  Any points are precious if they are to qualify for top tier European competition next term.  Yet while Fate has given Glasgow three matches against demoralised Italian opposition going down the stretch, she has been less kind to the capital club.  At the start of the season and today alike, if you were ranking the Gunners' fixtures by difficulty, this fixture would be at the top, somewhere between 'very difficult' and 'downright impossible'.  

Yet whether it was complacency, overconfidence or the IRFU, Leinster's selection seemed to have opened up a glimmer of home for the visitors, with many Irish internationals rested. It was still a strong side, mind, and showcased the depth that any title contender needs to have.  And, make no mistake, Leinster look set to be travelling to Murrayfield for the final next month.  

Edinburgh patiently built the phases in the first three minutes, eventually forcing a penalty, goaled by Jason 'Stovies' Tovey, The Stovenator (copyright @FionaKHunter).  Shortly afterwards, the home side spurned a long penalty chance in favour of a kick to the enemy 22.  While their maul made good progress, the Embramen halted it and defended the subsequent phases comfortably until giving up a straightforward penalty.  Madigan slotted it on seven minutes to even the score on 3-3. Leinster returned to the Gunners' 22 immediately after the restart and Madigan again slotted a simple kick on 10 minutes for a 6-3 home lead.

The men in black and red came right back, though.  Firstly, big Ben Teo got a bit of his own medicine on the physical side from One Man Wrecking Ball Jamie Ritchie and looked, as they say, 'visibly shaken'.  Then the Embramen put in some more phases in the Dubliners' red zone.  While they probed and probed, they could not break through and eventually a knock on allowed Leinster to clear off scrum ball.  Toolis (B) and WP 'WP' Nel were looking frisky with ball in hand, while Hardie was huge in defence.  The breakdown confrontations were massively physical; surely this would take its toll later in the match?

On 17 minutes, it looked like The Stovenator had intercepted a telegraphed Madigan pass and was home and dry from distance, but referee Mitrea rightly called him back for a visiting knock on earlier in the play. And Leinster were to enjoy a lengthy purple patch, the penalty count starting to mount as the Gunners repelled repeated home attacks over the next quarter hour or so.  The Gunners' lineout was not functioning, while errors were disrupting such pressure as they were able to exert.  But they held out until eventually Ritchie was carded for a foolish breakdown offence - inevitable that someone would go after skipper Ford had been warned earlier.  Madigan kicked to the corner but the Gunners smashed the maul and Leinster butchered a resulting overlap. 

After the Gunners had cleared, Kearney ran a clearance back - albeit after what looked suspiciously like a knock-on - and Burleigh committed a frankly idiotic breakdown offence.  Leinster kicked into the 22 and had a second bite at the cherry with three minutes to go to the break.  But the short-handed Embramen again defended the maul superbly then the close in drives brialliantly to hold the ball up and win a defensive scrum five with a minute left to run until the sanctuary of the break.  Massive, 1872-style heart, but they had put themselves in difficulty with their own indiscipline. The half ended with all sorts of jiggery pokery at the breakdown from Leinster in attack, then Kearney ran back another clearance of a clear forward pass.  Yet while the home side pounded in the 22, they got nowhere, and Madigan's loose pass into touch saw the score at the half 6-3.  Somehow, the visitors had held out.

But Leinster will heve been kicking themselves at not taking advantage of all their pressure.  Edinburgh, meanwhile, needed ball, field position and to stop shooting themselves in the foot.  If they did that, a rare Dublin victory was by no means out of the question, far less at least a losing bonus point that might end up being crucial in the final reckoning. 

The second half began with Allen on for the injured Burleigh, SHC moving out to centre and Kennedy coming in as Dean also came off.  Perhaps it was the disruption, perhaps it was the hold on Hardie, but Leinster carved open the defence on 44 minutes for a well taken try for their half back and a 13-3 advantage.  Frankly, they were well worth it.  

But the Gunners hit back immediately.  They worked their way into the home 22 from distance then Tovey saw Tom 'Schooldays' Brown wide open on the wing and threw a fantastic long, floated pass.  The winger had a fair bit still to do but beat the defence to cross in the corner.

Yet in what was becoming a tryfest, a loose Edinburgh pass on 50 minutes allowed Leinster to score a breakaway try under the posts for a 20-8 home lead.  One still felt, though, that the Gunners were playing with much more width and were looking more dangerous in attack and it was all to play for with half an hour left to run.  They needed to score next, though.

It looked like Hoyland had done it, intercepting a pass with Leinster pressing in the Embra 22 on 56 minutes.  He was gone, but was also marginally offside, so Leinster kicked to the corner and tried to work the maul over in search of the try bonus.  They spun the ball across to the opposite wing and Fergus Mcfadden in space crossed in the corner. Madigan's failure at the conversion left the score 25-8 Leinster.  The last minute looked like it had decided the result and one felt that the Gunners were now chasing a possible losing bonus at best.

On the stroke of the hour, at last the Embramen nailed an intercept.  The Leinstermen were a bit too flash with the handling in midfield and the Mike Allen pounced to gather and scoot under the sticks.  25-15 after the Tovey conversion heading into the final quarter. But Mcfadden scored his second and Leinster's bonus try in the same corner as this match really opened up.  Great try on 64 minutes and pretty much mission accomplished for the men in blue.  Madigan's failure with the conversion kept the lead at 30-15.  But you couldn't rule out the Gunners scoring another couple of tries and securing two losing bonus points such had the complexion of this encounter changed so dramatically in the second period.

And they kicked a penalty deep into the Leinster 22 but a lack of accuracy in handling after Rory Sutherland had breenged so close - the story of this match in attack for the Gunners - gave Leinster a chance to clear. But the visitors were immediately pressing in the 22.  Eventually, after Watson had come close, Kennedy scored the classic half back's try off breakdown ball, a hint at a dummy and he danced over between two big lads for the third try.  The Stovenator's conversion narowed the gap to 30-20 on 71 minutes.  Another try could give the visitors those two bonus points.  I was even starting to think about a great night at Donnybrook when Brendan 'Chainsaw' Laney won a match with an injury time penalty from half way after an outrageous Embra comeback.

But they needed to get back up the park to do that and they were now stuck in the own 22 with five minutes left on the clock.  They forced a scrum penalty to make some ground.  Then some brilliant offloading released Hoyland streaking through traffic from distance.  McFadden, the last line of defence, executed a high, no arm tackle on the speeding winger.  While the Irishman was floored himself, he should have been off the park.  

I'm sorry, but the decision to award only a penalty was simply wrong on a night when the referee had had a very sound game otherwise.  Crucial call.  

Mind you, SHC had a simple penalty chance on 78 minutes for the bonus, which he aced for a 30-23 deficit.  And the Gunners had a last throw of the dice to see if they could get a fourth try to tie things up.   They kept at it and kept at it, gradually making ground, keeping the ball alive.  Eventually, though, Leinster turned over ball and kicked dead to secure a deserved win.  The Gunners came away with the losing bonus, though, and that could be so important at the end of the regular season. They also played some fine attacking rugby in the second period and, but for their own unforced errors, could well have prevailed. For now, they have just moved up to sixth, on points differential over Munster, who visit Galway tomorrow.

The Embramen's next match, against seventh placed Munster in Cork, is going to be MASSIVE!