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EMBRA FAIL TO LOCATE LEINSTER JUGULAR

Edinburgh: 27 (21) Leinster 2nds: 16 (3)



The choice of tonight's match sponsors, lothiandentists.co.uk, proved spookily prophetic.  More than a few observers at Murrayfield this evening will require unbudgeted dental work due to damage inflicted by Embra's jaw-dropping failure to add a fourth, bonus point, try to the three touchdowns they notched in the first 25 minutes of proceedings.

It was not for want of trying, though, and only some quality defending by the Leinster dirt trackers and a couple of marginal decisions denied the home side a five point return.  As it was, they narrowed second-placed Leinster's lead over them to two points with three matches yet to play.  If Embra can secure three wins, they have a good chance of finishing a creditable second to Munster.

On a bitterly cold night, Leinster's weakened side started out promisingly.  They spent much of the opening ten minutes in Edinburgh territory, patiently going through the phases.  But the home defence looked very comfortable, and it was Edinburgh who opened the scoring with their first real attack of the match.

An alert Paterson kick behind the defence saw the full back just denied by desperate covering.  Yet Leinster could only clear to just outside their 22.  Mike Blair alertly took a quick lineout and Edinburgh switched play to the other wing.  Ali 'Hoggy' Hogg was on hand to surge over for a fine try, goaled by Paterson.

MacDonald did well to win turnover ball in his own 22 shortly after the restart, foiling a Leinster riposte.  Then good interplay between 'Big' Jim Hamilton and Hogg came close.

With Edinburgh looking just that little bit more urgent than the visitors, try number two came on 20 minutes.  Ford recovered an ELV-related aimless kick, shimmied a bit to dodge the pursuit, then set sail up the right wing.  He timed his pass to the supporting Houston perfectly and the winger eased away from the cover from distance for a score under the posts, converted by Paterson.

Five minutes later, Embra were probing, probing, probing in the enemy red zone.  Eventually, their patience paid off.  Blair saw an opening and gave to Webster on the left wing.  His fluorescent boots carried their owner through traffic, executing a fine swallow dive before touching down under the posts.  Paterson, naturally, converted for a 21-0 lead. 

Although McFadden pulled back a penalty just before the break, Edinburgh were looking comfortably placed to kick on for the bonus.  The lead undoubtedly flattered them, as Leinster had had plenty of ball and territory.  But the visitors didn't threaten much, with stand-off Nacewa generally looking to take the ball up himself, rather than release a decent set of outside backs.  Edinburgh, meanwhile, took their chances.

Sadly, the foot came off the gas big time in the second period.  The third quarter saw Leinster gel a little better and they narrowed the lead, two McFadden penalties to one from Paterson saw the score at 24-9.  Then some determined running down the left wing put Leinster in a good attacking position.  Non-existent tackling allowed hooker Fogarty to stroll over untouched for the converted try that took Leinster to within touching distance of at least a losing bonus entering the final quarter.  A decent try to score, a bad one to concede.

The closing stages saw Edinburgh come desperately close on a number of occasions.  A great solo effort nearly put Cairns over, but Leinster conceded a penalty at the breakdown.  As ever, Paterson knockled it over for a 27-16 lead.  Shortly after, Webster released Cairns on a great break down the opposite wing.  The centre's kick ahead was gathered well by Dempsey, but he was driven back almost to his goaline.  It was difficult not to share the widespread incredulity when referee Hayes gave the put-in at the subsequent scrummage to Leinster. Given the complete dominance that Embra had established at the set piece by that stage, a pushover try would have been on the cards.

Shane Horgan has many talents and remains a class act.  Yet he has never looked that great tracking back under the high ball or when a nippy guy is running at him.  Edinburgh spent the final 15 minutes of the match camped in or just outside the Leinster 22.  But while only desperate Leinster defending kept them out on several occasions, one felt that it might have been worth giving replacement threequarter Andy 'Turny' Turnbull, The Human Hamster, a late run against Horgan.   The tiny winger causes palpitations among the world's best sevens exponents and would surely have fancied his chances against the Leinster lighthouse.

But it was not to be.  Edinburgh ran out relatively comfortable winners and now sit third in the league, nine points behind leaders Munster, who have a game in hand.

MAN OF THE MATCH: MIKE BLAIR. The dental award went to Chris Paterson.

SCORERS:

Edinburgh: Paterson 3C 2P, Hogg 1T, Houston 1T, Webster 1T

Leinster: McFadden 3P 1C, Fogarty 1T

TEAMS:

Edinburgh: Paterson, Houston, Cairns, De Luca, Webster, Godman, M. Blair, Traynor, Ford, G. Cross, C. Hamilton, J. Hamilton, Newlands, MacDonald, Hogg.
Leinster:  Dempsey, Horgan, McFadden, D'Arcy, S. Keogh, Nacewa, Keane, McCormack, Fogarty, Knoop, Cullen, Hogan, Jowitt, O'Brien, S. Keogh.


Referee:  Hayes (WRU)