Edinburgh crashed to a second defeat from their first three Guinness Pro12 games last night as a nightmare 20-minute first-half spell which leaked four tries cost them dear against Leinster.
There was improvement after the break but Alan Solomons’ men left themselves too much to do against dangerous opposition.“Defensively we were very, very poor,” Solomons admitted. “We made too many errors, were very poor defensively, and I think that was the key to the whole game.”
Edinburgh had made a dream start as former Ulster player Michael Allen opened the scoring with his second try in as many games, touching down in the same righthand corner as he had the previous Friday against Scarlets.
This time it was a clever kick through by centre Phil Burleigh which sent the wing scampering through to get the touch. His momentum contrived to produce a somersault worthy of a gymnastics floor routine and the exertion resulted in him leaving the field for treatment – first temporarily and, not long later, permanently.
Duncan Weir was wide with the difficult touchline conversion but was on the mark minutes later with a penalty which put the home side 8-0 in front. If the Edinburgh fans were thinking this was too good to be true then it soon turned out that way as the Irishmen responded with a ferocious three-try burst which knocked the stuffing out of the hosts.
First centre Noel Reid’s flat pass found a gaping hole in midfield for flanker Dan Leavy to bound through and skipper Isa Nacewa, who was making his 150th appearance for the province, convert.
Reid’s centre partner Garry Ringrose then crossed after a period of concerted pressure to extend the lead and was almost away again down the right but was stopped by a last-ditch tackle by Weir.
Leinster, in their hi-vis Borussia Dortmund style change kit, continued to dazzle their hosts with slick, high-tempo rugby and Nacewa was on hand to cross in the right corner and dot under the posts after the ball had been put through the hands. He converted himself to make it 21-8 after 25 minutes.
It continued to be pretty much one-way traffic and after another surge of assaults in the Edinburgh 22, scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park squirmed over to open up a commanding 26-8 lead at the break.
To make matters worse, Edinburgh had lost skipper Grant Gilchrist to the sin bin in the passage of play leading up to the half-time interval, leaving them with a mountain to climb heading into the second period.
With a few choice words, no doubt, ringing in their ears from the dressing room, they started it positively by pinning Leinster back on their line for the first time in a while, but couldn’t find the breach. The Irish then gave Edinburgh an invitation to rejoin the party when Leavy was yellow carded and the home side banged at the door again. Blair Kinghorn had replaced Allen and gone to full-back with Glenn Bryce moving to right wing. Both were screaming for the ball to come wide into space as the visiting line was peppered with rucks but, in the end, the job was done up front as Hamish Watson crashed over, Weir converting. Bryce then thought he had scored in the corner before the TMO confirmed a foot in touch.
But this was much better by Edinburgh and they continued to press forward on the front foot.
Leinster, who were smarting from their loss to Glasgow at Scotstoun last Saturday and searching for a first win on Scottish soil in five attempts, which included the Pro12 final defeat by Connacht at the same venue, did well to absorb the resurgence.
Edinburgh refused to give up the ghost and with seven minutes left the Irish line finally buckled and Magnus Bradbury barged over. Uncharacteristically, Weir dragged the conversion wide and it was a six-point game going into the last few minutes.
In the end, the search for five points became a scrap to preserve the single losing bonus and even that proved in vain as Leavy’s drive over from close range gave the visitors a maximum return.