IN A finish that would test the cardiac condition of any coach, Leinster emerged victorious over Edinburgh at Murrayfield on Saturday night to make it two from two on the road in the Magners League.
With the clock showing two seconds of play left, Leinster, defending a 21-19 lead, were penalised for a deliberate knock-on by number 8 Jamie Heaslip to open the door for a last-gasp rescue by Scotland’s ‘Mr Reliable’, Chris Paterson.
But almost in disbelief, the Edinburgh supporters watched the 42-metre kick drift wide of the posts, giving Leinster victory and Edinburgh that deep feeling of bitter disappointment.
“We rode our luck tonight but we’re happy to get the win,” admitted Leinster’s skipper Leo Cullen, who conceded that in a performance that was not up to scratch, there were some positives. “We were pretty good in defence and in the second half we forced a lot of turnovers at the breakdown.
“But it’s early in the season and we’re making perhaps five or six changes every game and that’s proving disruptive. But that’s the way the start of the season is, with different players coming back at different stages. So we are a little disjointed. What we need is a bit of consistency in performance instead of being up and down.
“We’ve been a bit ragged in the last two games but at least we’re coming away with wins,” said Cullen, who suggested there was an element of fortune favouring the visitors. “We were bit fortunate to win today. Of all the people you’d expect to kick a goal in these circumstances, it would be Chris Paterson.
“Our discipline in the last 20 minutes was terrible and we gave them a lot of opportunities. But this win will give us confidence ahead of the Munster game at the RDS,” added the Leinster second row.
If Paterson failed Edinburgh at the end, then Fergus McFadden certainly succeeded for Leinster, the outside centre kicking six penalties in an impressive kicking display.
Moreover McFadden not only defended superbly in the first half when Edinburgh were monopolising possession but also produced a couple of attacking runs in the second half that helped build momentum.
Brian O’Driscoll is due to return to the Leinster side for the big game this weekend against Munster which means McFadden is likely to step aside for the Lions centre. O’Driscoll will certainly improve the attacking potential of Leinster, who for most of the first half were forced into a defensive role.
“We wanted to play attacking rugby in the first half but our set piece didn’t function properly and when we did get possession, we spilled too much ball. But in the second half we won more ball at the breakdowns and had a couple of chances to score,” reflected Leinster coach Mike Cheika.
Despite being under pressure in the first half, Leinster secured the first points of the game with a McFadden penalty answered by a similar effort from Paterson, after the Edinburgh full back had opened up the defence with a mazy run.
Then when Leinster piled over at the ruck, Paterson was again on target and when loosehead prop, Cian Healy, was sent to the sin-bin for an offence at the breakdown, Edinburgh looked poised to capitalise.
Instead Leinster raised their game and after a series of short-range drives by the forwards close to the Edinburgh line, the visitors were awarded a penalty, turned into points by the reliable McFadden.
Two further successful kicks by McFadden gave Leinster a 12-6 lead before Edinburgh produced the only try of the match, scored by centre Ben Cairns from sharp handling by replacement John Houston and lock Craig Hamilton, Paterson’s conversion giving Edinburgh the lead.
Two goals by McFadden pulled Leinster five points clear only for Paterson to land two for Edinburgh making the scoreline 19-18 with two minutes remaining. From the restart Edinburgh were dispossessed allowing replacement Jonathon Sexton to regain the lead with a drop goal. Then the dramatic ending and with it a Leinster win.
EDINBURGH: C Paterson; M Robertson, B Cairns, N De Luca (J Houston 40), T Visser; P Godman, M Blair; K Traynor (A Jacobsen 50), R Ford (A Kelly 55), G Cross (D Young 72); C Hamilton, S MacLeod; A MacDonald, R Grant (S Newlands 63), A Hogg.
LEINSTER: R Kearney; S Horgan, F McFadden, G D’Arcy, L Fitzgerald; S Berne (J Sexton 40), E Reddan; C Healey, J Fogarty (B Jackman 52), S Wright (M Ross 52); L Cullen, N Hines (D Toner 76); K McLaughlin (S Jennings 52), S O’Brien, J Heaslip.
Referee: T Hayes (WRU).
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved