EDINBURGH left Dublin empty handed last night as Leinster picked up a straightforward bonus point win, but Alan Solomons must wonder if his debilitating run of injuries will ever end.
Both Nick McLennan and Allan Dell were forced from the action in the first half, but it mattered little to the result as Leinster dominated throughout to take the victory.
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Solomons was forced to make ten changes to his starting line-up as his injury-ravaged squad headed to the RDS. In total the coach had to plan without 20 players for the match – 18 injuries – and on a wet night in Dublin things didn’t get much better for the former Ulster coach.
All eyes were on Leinster’s rugby league convert Ben Te’o on his first appearance for the home side and if the ferocity with which he hit his first ruck is anything to go by, the Leinster faithful are in for a treat with the New Zealander.
Zane Kirchner easily took a long box kick on the charge to settle Leinster’s nerves on a shocking night in Dublin, but they gained their first real territorial hold after four minutes when Edinburgh loose head Allan Dell was penalised for interfering with Leinster scrum-half Luke McGrath.
Jimmy Gopperth pinned Edinburgh to within touching distance of their own line and when they managed to halt the resultant rolling maul, they switched off momentarily which allowed Dominic Ryan creep down the short side for the game’s first try.
Gopperth missed the conversion from the left sideline as Leinster led 5-0, but Solomons’ side had their first chance to threaten the Leinster line in the tenth minute. A knock on by Kirchner gave Edinburgh the scrum on the left, and after they held it steady and spread the ball wide, Joaquin Rodriguez was pinged for holding on too long in the tackle under pressure from Jack Conan.
So it came as little surprise when the second try of the night arrived in the 14th minute. Noel Reid spotted a gap in Edinburgh’s drifting defence to set the home side on the front foot, and shortly after Kirchner gathered his own chip over the top, Conan scored in the right corner, as Tomas Leonardi failed to hold on to him in the tackle.
Gopperth made it 12-0 with the well-struck conversion, but immediately after the score Edinburgh’s injury jinx struck again when full-back McLennan was forced from the field with what appeared to be a knock to the head.
Edinburgh should have gotten themselves on the board midway through the half when Tom Denton came in the side of a ruck, but Tom Heathcote was off the mark with his penalty from in front of the posts from the ten-metre line.
Two minutes later, the home side also suffered a blow when Te’o was forced off with an arm injury picked up in a double tackle on Tim Visser, and bizarrely Edinburgh were further hit when Dell limped off with a leg injury after 23 minutes.
Edinburgh finally got off the mark after 24 minutes when Richardt Strauss – brother of Edinburgh skipper Andries – was penalised for not rolling away from the tackle following a quick line-out that caught the home side unawares. This time Heathcote slotted the penalty with ease to trim the deficit to nine points.
The stop-start nature of the play continued after the break as knock-ons and errors were the order of the day and the first real chance of a score came to the home side in the 49th minute. Edinburgh were penalised for not rolling away from the tackle zone and instead of attempting the awkward penalty from the left, Gopperth went for the corner.
But Edinburgh were let off as the fly-half somehow contrived to kick the ball dead as he tried to steal every possible inch.
However, three minutes later there was no let-off as Gopperth found his range when Rory Sutherland was penalised for not releasing the ball and once again the maul off the lineout reaped dividends, with Ryan getting the crucial downward pressure for his second try of the night.
Gopperth’s conversion made it 19-3 to the home side, but Edinburgh went on the attack immediately and almost crossed the whitewash following a couple of well constructed rolling mauls. Firstly, Leonardi was held up over the line, and in the following phase Andreis Strauss was gobbled up as soon as the ball was spread wide.
Ben Marshall’s try 16 minutes from time sealed the maximum haul for Leinster who inflicted a fourth defeat of the season on the unfortunate Scots as Leonardi raced in the right corner four minutes from time for a consolation for Edinburgh. It was the least they deserved.
Scorers: Leinster: Tries: Ryan 2, Conan, Marshall, M. McGrath. Cons: Gopperth 4.
Edinburgh: Tries: Leonardi. Pens: Heathcote.
Leinster: Kirchner, Fanning, Te’o, Reid, Fitzgerald, Gopperth, L McGrath, Bent, Strauss, Furlong, Denton, Douglas, McLaughlin, Ryan, Conan, Dooley. Replacements: Crosbie for Te’o (20), M McGrath for Reid (71), Boss for L McGrath (63), Dooley for Bent (48), Marshall for Douglas (33), Leavy for Ryan (71), B Byrne for Dooley (68). Not used: E. Byrne.
Edinburgh: McLennan, Fife, Dominquez, Strauss, T Visser, Heathcote, Hidalgo-Clyne, Dell, Hilterbrand, W Nel, B Toolis, Turley, Bradbury, Leonardi, Denton. Replacements: Tonks for McLennan (16), Turner for Fife (74), Cuthbert for Strauss (64), Kennedy for Hidalgo-Clyne (49), Sutherland for Dell (24), Andress for W Nel (64), Ritchie for Bradbury (65). Not used: Kerr.
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