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EMBRA EDGED IN MURRAYFIELD THRILLER

Edinburgh: 19 (6) Leinster 21 (6)



There was controversy, thrills 'n' spills and intense media interest at Murrayfield this afternoon.  And that was just at the National Trust for Scotland's AGM in the President's Suite.  The Embra-Leinster match up that followed was right up with the best in a series where high drama has been a feature of many.

A brilliant Sexton dropped goal with seconds left secured the points for the visitors after a long Paterson penalty had seemed to win it for Edinburgh. Yet Mossy could so nearly have won it yet, a final long range penalty just going wide with no time left on the clock.  While last week Ulster rued the Gunners' ability to stay cool in the dying minutes, this time it was the capital side who had to admit that the visitors were just that little bit cooler this time around.

And Edinburgh will also be kicking themselves that they lost out, given that they played most of the rugby throughout.  Even when Leinster noticeably upped the pace in the third quarter - the substitution of Sexton for Australian import Berne making the visitors a little more incisive - still the Gunners' line didn't look like being seriously threatened.  Yet the home side failed to make their dominance of ball and territory count in the first half and gave away two uncharacteristically dumb penalties on virtually the same spot immediately after the second half began.  Visiting threequarter McFadden kicked those, as he did four more to see Leinster squeak home.

On another day, it would have been different.  Indeed, Tim Visser alone could easily have had a hat-trick of tries, the touch judge and TMO - rightly, unfortunately - denying him when he had a foot in touch and was just beaten to the ball by desperate defence respectively.  The big Dutchman looked up for it all evening and was a standout.  As was the returning Nick de Luca.  The snake-hipped centre's elusiveness seeing him dance through tackles at will in the first half.  He must also have taken more restarts than anyone in the match, such was his enthusiasm to get involved.  It was a pity, then, that injury seemed to be the cause of his replacement early in the second period. 

Meanwhile, pre-match worries about the home set piece proved unfounded, with Craig Hamilton again putting in a power of work.  Yet it was at the breakdown where Edinburgh rather lost their way, allowing Leinster to slow up ball too often and generally make a nuisance of themselves.

Leinster were first on the board, with a McFadden penalty on two minutes.  Paterson swiftly replied with one of his own five minutes later.  After a lively Leinster start, it was Edinburgh who begain to gain the upper hand.  Enjoying the lion's share of possession and territory, they calmly probed the defence.  After Godmman had missed a long penalty effort, Cairns came close chasing a Godman dink.  Then the impressive Kearney marked a useful bomb with Visser in hot pursuit.  Paterson nudged Embra into a deserved lead on 28 minutes, though, with a penalty.

When Healy was carded for a fairly blatant ruck offence on 35 minutes, one expected Edinburgh at last to drive their advantage home.  But it was actually Leinster who notched what turned out to be the crucial scores, McFadden kicking three penalties in three minutes either side of the break.  Yet while the third score followed MacLeod's binning for a ruck offence, it was short-handed Edinburgh who made the most of the power play with the night's only try.

In a great response to the card, Edinburgh surged into the Leinster half, great work by Blair and Hamilton putting Ben 'Cairnsy' Cairns into the enemy 22.  He had loads to do, but the classy centre beat pretty much everyone in the Leinster back division to scoot over for the touchdown, goaled by Paterson.  13-12 up with just over half an hour to play.

 With Leinster beginning to put some phases together, McFadden regained the lead for them with a penalty on the hour.  He stretched it to five with another penalty five minutes later.  Leinster had been under the cosh, but had hung in there.  Then after Visser had come close in the corner, great interplay by Godman, Blair and replacement Newlands forced a Leinster penalty.  Mossy goaled it and the lead was cut to two with nine minutes left.

There were times in the next few minutes when one felt that the Gunners were trying to play too much rugby in their own half.  A more productive approach, surely, would have been to go for touch in the Leinster 22 and attack an increasinly ropey enemy lineout.  All they needed was a penalty.  But they stuck at it and eventually forced another Leinster penalty with 90 seconds left.  It was outside the Leinster 10 metre line, but Paterson struck it beautifully.  19-18 and all the Gunners needed to do was hold the restart and run the clock down.

That they did not was in large measure due to a marvellously ferocious Leinster chase of the restart.  The Dubliners forced the turnover and Sexton nailed the goal.  Yet Edinburgh kept their heads well and forced a final penalty, again on the Leinster 10, with no time left, Heaslip's cynical offence spotted by referee Hayes (who had an unwontedly good evening's whistling overall).  This time, Paterson's effort sailed just wide and the victory was Leinster's.

An agonising defeat, then, but a fabulous spectacle from which Edinburgh will take plenty of positives.  Not least of which is the losing bonus point, which should be the very least acceptable haul from any match this season.  And the crowd looked pretty close to a non-1872 Cup Magners record attendance.  Those first timers who came along will surely be back for more in future. 

The best way for the squad to get the result out of their system, of course, is to head down to Swansea next weekend and beat the Ospreys prior to the Heineken beginning.  And Embra will have a point to prove when they head over to the RDS later in the season.

SCORERS:

Edinburgh: Paterson 4P 1C, Cairns 1T

Leinster: McFadden 6P, Sexton 1DG

TEAMS:

Edinburgh: Paterson, Robertson, Cairns, De Luca, Visser, Godman, M. Blair, Traynor, Ford, G. Cross, C. Hamilton, MacLeod, MacDonald, Grant, Hogg.
Replacements: Houston for De Luca (41), Jacobsen for Traynor (51), Kelly for Ford (54), Young for G. Cross (71), Newlands for Grant (64). Not Used: S. Turnbull, Laidlaw.

Leinster: R. Kearney, Horgan, McFadden, D'Arcy, Fitzgerald, Berne, Reddan, Healy, Fogarty, Wright, Cullen, Hines, McLaughlin, O'Brien, Heaslip.
Replacements: Sexton for Berne (41), Jackman for Fogarty (53), Ross for Wright (53), Toner for Hines (77), Jennings for McLaughlin (53). Not Used: S. Keogh, Dempsey.

Att: 5,761

Ref: Tim Hayes (WRFU)