Leinster 30 Edinburgh 23: Despite a loose defensive performance, Leinster claimed a bonus-point win over Edinburgh last night to move five points clear of Connacht at the top of the Guinness Pro12 table.
After a scrappy first half that finished 6-3, this game exploded into life with seven tries scored after the break as Luke Fitzgerald providing the inspiration for Leinster.
This affair look much less invigorating in the first half with Edinburgh arriving with a power-based game plan that should have been boosted by a wind and by the lack of defensive cohesion in a Leinster side that showed 12 changes from the win over Munster.
But the home defence soaked up the tackles and applied pressure off the line to cause some jittery handling from Edinburgh out-half Jason Tovey.
The visitors ended the half with flanker Jamie Ritchie in the sin bin, but despite conceding nine penalties, they were trailing Leinster by just three points who had scored through two penalties from the boot of Ian Madigan.
There was little finesse or shape to Leinster’s attacking game. Ben Te’o was a constant source of gainline pressure and it seems the rugby league convert has hit his best form ever since it was announced that he would be joining Premiership club Worcester Warriors next season.
Jordi Murphy, Rhys Ruddock and Josh van der Flier were also willing carriers but every time Leinster got within sniffing distance of the Edinburgh chalk, loose passes or sloppy protection at the ruck allowed the visitors to slip off the hook. Fitzgerald and showed up well in defence where his ability to snuff out Edinburgh threats was matched by his footwork and passing game in attack.
And it was the Ireland winger who played a pivotal role in Leinster’s first try when he stormed onto an inside ball from Madigan.
Fitzgerald tore through the hole and as the Edinburgh cover defence closed in on him, the 28-year-old fizzed the ball off his left to Luke McGrath, who just had to dive in underneath the posts.
Despite Leinster’s eagerness to restart the game, they allowed Edinburgh straight into their 22. Some slack defending saw Fergus McFadden isolated by a long pass over his head allowing Edinburgh winger Tom Brown a path to the corner.
Tovey missed the conversion but Leinster struck back within a matter of minutes when the Edinburgh missed a kick to touch off a penalty.
As Edinburgh countered Sean Kennedy, on as a half-time replacement, threw a careless pass straight to Noel Reid who charged upfield before offloading to Van der Flier and the Ireland flanker touched down after a 40m run.
Just before the hour Fitzgerald once again played a try-scoring pass, this time to McFadden.
The fourth try would come but not before some bumps in the road. Madigan tried to hit Fitzgerald with another inside ball but Mike Allan latched on to intercept and the try allowed Edinburgh back into it.
With Fitzgerald once again at the heart of Leinster’s attack, McFadden grabbed his second try to secure the bonus-point win on 63 minutes.
A final Edinburgh try from Kennedy and a penalty from Sam Hidalgo-Clyne would allow the visitors leave Dublin with a losing bonus point which, for the time being, puts them level on points with Munster but ahead of them in the table on points difference.
Leinster scorers :
Tries: L. McGrath, van der Flier, McFadden 2. Cons: Madigan 2. Pens: Madigan 2.
R. Kearney, McFadden, Te’o, Reid, Fitzgerald, Madigan, L. McGrath, Healy, Strauss, Ross, Molony, M. Kearney, Ruddock, van der Flier, Murphy.
D. Kearney for Fitzgerald (75), Marsh for Madigan (65), Reddan for L. McGrath (65), Cronin for Strauss (52), Furlong for Ross (52), Toner for Molony (65), D. Ryan for Ruddock (51).
Tries: Brown, Allen, Kennedy. Cons: Tovey. Pens: Tovey, Hidalgo-Clyne.
Kinghorn, Hoyland, Dean, Burleigh, Brown, Tovey, Hidalgo-Clyne, Dickinson, Ford, Nel, Bresler, B. Toolis, Ritchie, Hardie, Du Preez.
Allen for Dean (41), Kennedy for Hidalgo-Clyne (41), Sutherland for Dickinson (65), McInally for Ford (54), Andress for Nel (65), A. Toolis for Bresler (52), Watson for Hardie (58).
Marius Mitrea (Italy).
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