EDINBURGH coach Alan Solomons was full of praise for his men after they pushed champions Leinster all the way at the RDS last night.
Scorers: Leinster: Tries: Murphy, D Kearney. Con: Gopperth. Pens: Gopperth. Edinburgh: Try: Visser. Cons: Laidlaw. Pens: Laidlaw (2).
Indeed, Edinburgh came very close to spoiling the party for Leinster’s retiring heroes Brian O’Driscoll and Leo Cullen with a fired-up performance which will give Solomons some encouragement as he prepares for his second term in charge.
“I am extremely proud of the boys. They are fatigued, we have had a lot of injuries and to come here and have Leinster winding down the clock at the end is a credit to their efforts,” he said.
However, that gutsy performance never looked like preventing Solomons’ first season in charge ending with five successive defeats.
They seemed poised for another pasting when an out-of-sorts Leinster side surged 15-6 ahead in the third quarter, but Edinburgh never gave up and a converted try by Tim Visser 15 minutes from time ensured a nervous finish for the holders, who will now host Ulster in next weekend’s semi-final in a repeat of last year’s decider.
Edinburgh may have had little more than pride to play for, but they were worth their 6-5 interval lead.
Indeed, they would have been further ahead had the television match official not spotted Tim Visser’s forward pass to Matt Scott after 17 minutes in midfield before full-back Carl Bezuidenhout raced over.
Edinburgh, already severely depleted, were further disrupted when they lost three players to injury in the opening 27 minutes with winger Sam Beard, No.8 David Denton and centre Matt Scott all forced to go off.
Leinster initially responded well to a bright start by Edinburgh when Greig Laidlaw made no mistake with a penalty after Gordon D’Arcy was pinged for not rolling away after six minutes. Leinster immediately built the phases, tested the defence out wide on both flanks and eventually the pressure paid off when Jordi Murphy found a gap to get over after ten minutes.
Jimmy Gopperth narrowly missed the conversion from the left but notions that they would push on and dominate from there were dispelled, with the loss of hooker Richardt Strauss to injury not helping their cause.
Edinburgh were not perturbed by the ruling out of Bezuidenhout’s try and it took some superb defending to deny stand-off Harry Leonard before the break, but Laidlaw edged them in front with his second penalty just before the interval after O’Brien was penalised for being off his feet.
Leinster were much sharper after the restart and piled the pressure on Edinburgh but Dave Kearney knocked-on after a superb through-the-legs pass from O’Driscoll, while excellent breaks by Gopperth and Rob Kearney were stopped short by the stretched visitors’ defence.
But the pressure coughed up a penalty in front of the posts and Gopperth duly obliged to edge Leinster 8-6 in front after 51 minutes.
It appeared that the champions would canter to victory when Dave Kearney went over for their second try after 57 minutes after good work by Gopperth and with the stand-off landing the conversion to make it 15-6, the margin of victory seemed all that remained to be decided.
But Edinburgh continued to battle away and once more Leinster faded, with Laidlaw punishing them with a sniping break after 65 minutes to send Tim Visser cantering home under the posts.
Laidlaw’s conversion reduced the margin to 15-13 to ensure a nervous finish for the table-toppers, but Edinburgh were unable to conjure a winner.
Leinster: R Kearney (Macken 58); McFadden, O’Driscoll, D’Arcy (Madigan 64), D Kearney; Gopperth, Boss; J McGrath (Healy 52), Strauss (Cronin 12), Ross (Moore 52); Cullen (Ruddock 53), McCarthy; O’Brien (Ryan 51), Murphy, Heaslip.
Edinburgh: Bezuidenhout (Francis 70); Beard (Hart 3), Scott (Atiga 28), Strauss, Visser; Leonard, Laidlaw; Dickinson, Ford (Hilterbrand 64), Nel (Berghan 64); Gilchrist, B Toolis (A Toolis 58); Coman, Leonardi, Denton (Basilaia 27).
Referee: L Hodges (WRU). Attendance: 16,000.