CLINICAL LEINSTER CANTER AWAY AT THE RDS
Leinster: 39 (8) Edinburgh Rugby: 10 (3)
The Embramen came into this match at the RDS having secured a losing bonus point in their two previous fixtures, both against Irish provinces. Was it to be third time lucky? Well, it was certainly not a narrow loss.
It was a real shellacking.
It was especially frustrating as they played much of this match with real ambition. At times, they showed great patience and really stretched the home defence. But they did not make pressure and possession count when they had it. For periods in the second half, they switched off mentally and were made to pay. To concede 31 points in the second half just is not acceptable
Certainly, Leinster were the more weakened through international calls. albeit they could still field a strong starting XV, while keeping my own current favourite home player, the extravagantly named Kiwi Jamison Gibson-Park, on the bench. The New Zealand Maori proved a key player when he did come on.
The match started with an excellent three minutes before the first break in play, with the Gunners winning two turnovers and looking dangerous. One felt that Dean hesitated in the 22 with Edinburgh threatening, while they lost ball a bit too easily in attack to allow Leinster to clear. The home side knocked a subsequent penalty to the enemy 22 but the Embramen defended well to clear.
Poor Edinburgh discipline on five minutes saw Leinster knock the penalty to touch but again the defence at the lineout was sound. The Irish province were showing their intent, but the Gunners looked comfortable. They needed to occupy some field position and keep ball though.
Just as an aside, I continue to wonder about consistency in refereeing the new tackle directive. After some early excitement, officials seem to have returned to business as usual. Already, one saw a number of choke tackles in the vicinity of the neck, which should really have been penalised.
On 10 minutes, the Gunners' scrum dominated their oppositive numbers, but a guddle between du Preez and SHC saw Leavy set sail goalwards. The big man was caught just short but the ball was whipped quickly left for Daly to squeeze over in the corner for a fine try, despite Hoyland's despairing tackle. Carbery failed with the difficult conversion.
The Embramen were starting to get a bit of penetration, one particularly good set off a dominant scrummage put the home side under pressure in their own 22 following a great run from full back by Bryce. But their execution was letting them down. At the end of the first quarter, a great set ended with a Bradbury pass to Burleigh on the wing just drifting forward with wide open prairie ahead. The Gunners were getting round the Leinster defence on the outside, but one felt on several occasions that they needed to straighten the line just a touch to release the wide men.
Eventually, Edinburgh pressure over 28 phases forced Leinster to cough up a penalty deep in their 22. Great defence by the home side; great patience by the visitors. Weir kicked to the corner. Already, this was looking like a decisive play in the match. Leinster stopped the maul then won a breakdown penalty to clear on 27 minutes.
The breakdown was a superbly ferociously contested affair on both sides, with Ritchie putting himself about in characteristic fashion, and the Gunners were now dominating territory and possession. Now it was the Irish side that was struggling to get out of their own half. Edinburgh were playing with verve and ambition. But they hadn't managed to turn the pressure into points. Typically, when the home side did eventually make some ground, the Gunners were penalised at the breakdown and Carbery stretched the lead to 8-0 on 33 minutes. The pot at goal was a sign that they felt this was going to be a close one.
Cochrane turned over ball on the restart, leading to a Leinster breakdown penalty. This time, Duncan Weir TGB had a simple chance and duly knocked over the penalty on 35 minutes. The Gunners pack was really dominating the scrummage now and one felt that referee Davies was being a mite indulgent of the home eight. At last, Ross was penalised for collapsing on 38 minutes under huge pressure from Jack Cosgrove.
In injury time, the Gunners drove a lineout maul well then whipped the ball wide left. The impressive Dean wound up and threw a massive pass to Tom 'Schooldays' Brown in space. Had the big hitting winger held on, as he really should have done, it was try time. But he had just taken a big hit himself and was still a mite woozy so the ball went to ground. It had been an excellent half from Edinburgh with lots to like. One feared, though, that they might rue their missed opportunities. Sadly, that missed chance was indeed to prove crucial.
There were a number of replacements at the break, partly injury-related (including Brown), partly also due to the sheer pace of this match. The Gunners were keeping up the fancy rugby, mind, running ball out of their own 22 in the early exchanges. Their discipline let them down, though, giving up a breakdown penalty, which Leinster kicked to the corner. After some close in phases, the ball was shipped wide for Carbery, moved out to centre, to reach over for the score on 49 minutes. It looked like the Dublin side were keeping the ball a bit tighter and it paid dividends for them. 13-3 up after a second failed conversion. George Turner came on for Cochrane, who had had a storming match.
On 53 minutes, Hoyland appeared to be taken high in the tackle, but Leinster exploited the resulting turnover superbly, breaking speedily for Carbery to score his second. This time the conversion was good and they were 20-3 up and chasing the bonus. How quickly the momentum had shifted as Leinster had gone up a gear.
They duly secured the bonus on 55 minutes as Daly eluded a tackle and walked over for try number four. 25-3 after the failed conversion and it was difficult to see the Embramen coming back now. Edinburgh rang the changes as a result, with Fowles, Gilchrist and Carmichael coming on for some game time on the time. They finished the match with a phenomenally youthful pack.
It just was not the Embramen's night and it was Leinster who were now dominating territory. Leavy then bashed over off a good driving maul on 66 minutes, 32-3 with the Byrne conversion.
To their credit, the Gunners kicked a penalty to the corner, put in a few close in phases before Turner took ball on and executed a Mata-esque offload to the supporting Weir, who crossed under the posts. 32-10 down going into the final ten minutes. Somewhat exasperatingly, they failed to gather the restart, though, and a second Byrne crossed after a couple of phases. Far, far too easy. The first Byrne missed the extras and it was a 39-10 home advantage.
The match ended with Edinburgh deep in the enemy 22 being pinged for holding on on the ground. It rather summed up their evening.