It seemed like the best possible start, but the clues were there. Edinburgh came flying out of the blocks, and after Phil Burleigh threaded a well weighted grubber kick in behind Leinster on almost their first attack, Michael Allen dove on to the ball to score. In the act of doing so, he managed to perform a neck roll on himself and was unsettled for the remaining time he was on the pitch.
They don’t make things easy on themselves, Edinburgh.
The try was swiftly followed by a Weir penalty and it was 8-0 after five and a half minutes. Murrayfield’s small crowd could scarcely believe it.
When Leinster did respond – and they did – it was an innocuous push off the defensive line from Grant Gilchrist that left a gaping hole for Leinster’s 7 Dan Leavy to jog through for an all too easy try. Edinburgh’s first mistake, punished harshly. It wouldn’t be their last.
Leinster’s second try was patiently worked by the pack from an attacking lineout before Garry Ringrose skirted round the defence to put the visitors in the lead.
After 20 minutes, Allen succumbed to his scoring somersault and Blair Kinghorn came on, pushing Bryce to the wing. Viliami Fihaki was providing what Edinburgh have lacked this season: front foot ball. But there were too many mistakes and Leinster were too clinical, coming away with a try on almost every incursion into Edinburgh’s 22; there was another try from Nacewa after 25 minutes.
Edinburgh had started better than they had all season but Leinster’s defensive line was more than capable of handling it, up fast every time and denying Fowles and Weir any time to control things or find the holes that Glasgow did last weekend.
It was frustrating stuff from Edinburgh, especially as one foul play from Tom Brown put both teams on a warning despite the majority of the iffy tackles to that point having been made by the boys in neon yellow.
Leinster came back on with the pressure and again it was patient play from the forwards until Jamie Gibson Park spurted through Nathan Fowles’ tackle for the 4th try and the bonus.
Gilchrist was yellow carded just before half time and Leinster had a sniff at a 5th try with a scrum in Edinburgh’s half, but a seven man shove led by WP Nel held firm to take them into half time.
HT: Edinburgh 8-26 Leinster
Nobody told Hamish Watson he was participating in a drubbing and he came out charging in the second half with a carry almost half the length of the pitch, handing off Leinster tacklers left right and centre. Weir kicked for the corner but the pack were unable to break the line. A Leinster penalty handed them a second chance but once again Edinburgh were too ponderous, too ineffectual and too easily pushed off their own ball.
The referee assisted by yellow carding Leavy for a pretty innocuous tip tackle on Fowles and Edinburgh persisted attacking the Leinster line until Hamish Watson earned a reward for his hard work with Edinburgh’s second try. The home side had another good attacking chance with Watson again to the fore and Glenn Bryce denied by a foot in touch. The pressure was expected with a man advantage but Edinburgh would have wanted more from 4 penalties, all kicked to the corner. 12 points would have put them in the lead.
They had far more attacking chances in a much improved second half but again the last pass let them down. A smart break from Blair Kinghorn who once again impressed in attack almost cut Leinster open, but the visitors scramble defence was equally smart and the best Edinburgh earned was a scrum.
All that second half pressure finally paid off with a Magnus Bradbury try, which brought Edinburgh within 6 points even as Duncan Weir missed a conversion in front of the posts.
Given the first half, the possibility of a bonus point seemed like almost a miracle and sadly the cruel mirage that gave Edinburgh hope was snatched away o the final moments of the game, Dan Leavy crashing over for a try as Leinster woke up for just the bare minimum amount of time required to leave Edinburgh with nothing.
The players will be gutted to come away with nothing, but Edinburgh’s lapses cost them and they still look like individuals in attack. Cut out the lapses and they will at least be hard to beat, which would be a start.
SRBlog Man of the Match: Hamish Watson emerged head and shoulders above the other Edinburgh players. Strong efforts from Ben Toolis, Kinghorn and Weir while Kevin Bryce and Sttuart McInally battled hard when they came off the bench.