Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Leinster 21-13 Edinburgh

Richard Cockerill, Edinburgh Head Coach
Edinburgh Head Coach Richard Cockerill - pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography

On paper this looked like it had the potential for a horor show, but Edinburgh started this game in Dublin with massive intent and an early Jason Tovey penalty was just reward for all their good pressure. In the backline, James Johnstone and Dougie Fife showed why Richard Cockerill is keen to return them to the fold full time with incisive running and pace which Leinster struggled to cope with.

With the possession all in Edinburgh’s hands, Leinster were bound to infringe and were on a warning from referee Ian Davies after just 8 minutes, Jason Tovey slotting another penalty.

Dougie Fife perhaps got off lightly – although it was difficult to see what he could have done differently – when Dave Kearney leapt into his airspace for a high balland ended up on the deck. Johnny Sexton and Leinster fancied a card, and although they didn’t get one they were sufficiently riled to score a simple try on their next possession, retaking the lead.

With momentum back with the hosts, there was a spot of handbags on the quarter hour mark as the recently penalised Scott Fardy took exception to Darryl Marfo patting him on the head. It was silly, but a misnomer in a half played in reasonable spirits – aside from the endless high tackles by either side going unpunished. Well, Leinster’s ones anyway.

Phil Burleigh gave Edinburgh a good attacking platform with a nicely judged grubber kick that saw the defender bundled into touch, but an overthrown and squint lineout in prime position undid all the good work.

The lineout was pretty poor, but the scrum was doing a decent job against the pedigree front row.

Behind the packs it was a tussle of wills between experienced standoffs Jason Tovey and Sexton, and Tovey nudged ahead on the half hour mark with a perfectly judged interception of the Ireland fly half that he ran in for the try.

Leinster came charging back, Sexton showing his own skillset with a well-judged chip kick but superb cover work by Tom Brown stopped the try.

The home side kept their foot on the throat with five minutes left in the half, trying to punish Edinburgh via the set piece. First the the scrum (which held) then the through the lineout, each time spurning three points with supreme confidence even as Edinburgh conceded penalties on the deck. The pack couldn’t make it count though against Edinburgh’s dogged defence, and it took Joey Carbery out wide to finish off the pressure with a try going into the break.

Half time: Leinster 14-13 Edinburgh

Leinster, as kings of the “championship minutes” in days gone by, came out hard in the second half, the all international front row and bullocking back rows led by Rhys Ruddock and Sean O’Brien testing Calum Macrae’s defensive system to straining point.

As they ended the first half, Edinburgh were soon defending their line again, against hordes of the blue zulus. They managed to hold firm until Jamie Ritchie and Hamish Watson combined to steal the turnover.

Unlikely as it seemed at this point, there wouldn’t be another score until the last six minutes of the match.

Edinburgh were doing well to keep Leinster at bay but then there was the oh-so-frustrating shoot yourself in the foot moment as Jamie Ritchie clattered into Luke McGrath after his clearance kick was away.

Tails up, Leinster smelled a chance to pull clear and their pack battered Edinburgh’s line once again. Their first effort was held up over the line, but the set scrum gave Leinster a crack at replacement tighthead Kevin Bryce.

Bryce and his teammates held, and then Sexton cleared Sam Hidalgo-Clyne out round the neck and gave the visitors a respite. Leinster are at their best, very streetwise, but at their worst?

The good news for Edinburgh wa”s that cracks were appearing.

Speaking of “worst”, 14-man Edinburgh seemed to be unnecessarily in game chasing mode with too many indecisive or risky passes putting them under pressure – and they weren’t coming from the Sevens boys either.

Edinburgh so nearly had a try after a super offload by John Hardie put Dougie Fife over, but the officials adjudged the otherwise effective Cornell du Preez to have obstructed a defender in the build up phases.

With no score for 25 minutes and Edinburgh now restored to 15 men, it was becoming a bit of a chess match, admittedly played by slightly out of breath elephants. Bresler and Hardie made instant impacts with some powerful carries, while Jason Tovey continued an excellent game taking the ball to the line well. Players were tiring though, and mistakes were creeping in as passes went to ground. Edinburgh were however tireless at the breakdown, and kept forcing mistakes from the hosts.

Edinburgh had battled hard to keep the scores so close but then some heavy kick chase pressure from Leinster saw a poor clearance, bouncing balls in the 22 and once again a Leinster player high in the air and trouble brewing. This time John Hardie took a knee to the back of the head, then Jamie Gibson-Park dove over for the try.

It was heart-breaking stuff.

Ross Byrne converted Leinster’s third try from the touchline which meant Edinburgh were not even in with a losing bonus, something that they would have thoroughly deserved.

They had one final chance, some big carries from Fruean earning them good ground before Kinghorn steamed into space.

But Edinburgh were unable to make it count when the ball was recycled, an offload flew loose and then the ball was smothered in blue players.

Dave Kearney looked like he’d made a major blunder by kicking to touch too early but referee Davies blew up, leaving more than a few puzzled looks.

It was a very useful performance by Edinburgh, and they will be aggrieved that they came away with nothing. Results like this should only add to their determination to bend this sort of game to their will in future, and Cockerill’s coaching team will have plenty to work on to make that happen. There are at least signs of something decent in the embers of this one.

Oh, and if you believe in an anti-Edinburgh refereeing conspiracy, some of the calls in this game might add fuel to your fire.

SRBlog Man of the Match: Sam Hidalgo-Clyne is back looking sharp, and Grant Gilchrist charged hard at Leinster all night. For me though, Jason Tovey ran the Edinburgh backline very well, even off limited ball in the middle 40 of the game. Scored all of Edinburgh’s points in a gutsy team performance that will give the big (or at least more regularly selected) names left out this week pause for thought.

Referee: Ian Davies (WRU)

24 Responses

  1. Farcical refereeing. Leinster players are “Johnny”, “Dev” etc., with the Edinburgh guys it’s “Red 5”. Pro 14 won’t improve its reputation until it reduces the number of absolute nonsense refs it has

  2. James Johnson should not be dosignated to the sevens. Why hasn’t that guy been playing at Edinburgh before now? In the little ball he had he looked outstanding.

    The whole pack were outstanding. SHC should not have come off, pace dropped when that happened.

    Also, why not take a drop goal at the end? Madness

    Still, they are starting to become hard to beat. JJ and Dean should be starting centres from now on.

  3. Argh – gutted not even a point. Commitment and intensity defo there. Still too many wee mistakes though. Ref heavily imfluenced by the RDS experience. Enjoyed SHC winding up the whinging Sexton. Johnstone looked very good – look forward to seeing more. Generally impressed all round by the intent.

    1. Yes, shame there wasn’t a losing bonus point because Edinburgh really stuck at it. This was a match that Edinburgh could have won tonight, which means there are good signs of a revival here. Wasn’t hugely impressed by SOB. He’s an excellent player, but was subdued/suppressed this evening. Scotland have lots of quality to choose from in the back row. If we can get the right front five in place for the 6N then we could be a team others will really fear .Toonie can experiment as much as he likes in the AIs because 6N 18 will be the truer test of our progress imho.

  4. Edinburgh deserved better than that. Clear, deliberate contact with the head in a ruck by Leinster on Edinburgh seconds before the Edinburgh try unpunished; the softest yellow card in the history of mankind (was it even penalty worthy?!); dangerous play leading to Hardie’s HIA… what a joke. Terrible refereeing and while Edinburgh weren’t exactly lighting it up in attack, they looked better than Leinster. Are they the new Glasgow/Munster, per chance?

    Also, again, kudos in getting the review up so quickly.

  5. Who saw that performance coming?! When I saw the teams announced I feared a whooping. How wrong I was.

    Gutting to let in that last try, the team more than deserved something from that game.

    Points I’d like to make:
    Ref had a good game but some of the big calls just seemed wrong. The challenge in the air in the first half, I’ve never heard of that not being a yellow due to the jumping player “launching” themselves into the grounded player. But then he yellows Ritchie which seemed very harsh.

    All game long Leinster were blocking. In open play their runners seemed to look for where they were players in front of them to use as cover. Edinburgh do it once, and not that blatantly, and we have a try chalked off.

    Sexton is gobby wee muppet who seems to think he has a divine right to do what he likes. I’m very glad we didn’t let him get away with it.

    Their number 5 was a moaning fool as well. Putting in a cheep shot and then whining to the ref when he player stands up to you? Away and play football you big girl.

    How is there not a law that protects players on the ground from people flying through the air with knees and feet at head height? Hardy at the end but Carney was going for catches with his feet out all game. Needs sorted before someone loses their face.

    To finish, amazing resilience by edinburgh. Great hands at times. Some brilliant running. Johnson the centre looks very good. Amazing to have Ritchie, Hardin and Watson in one squad! Keep playing like that but with a win at the end please!

  6. Much improved play from Edinburgh but again up against an appalling referee – Davies was so far head first down Sext-sorry, Johnny’s back pocket his wee feet were dangling out. Endless obstruction missed but Du Preez’s one noticed (last week Scarlets’ second try was no try for blatant obstruction), Johnny should have been yellow carded for neck rolling – in the rules, no? Some unlucky moments for Edinburgh but again silly stuff: kicking the ball away in the Leinster half when retention was the order of the day (they had a hard enough job getting the ball back!), Gilchrist having the ball ripped (didn’t he do that last time?), missed penalty to touch, gaping holes in the defence for run throughs, Kinghorn…Kinghorn! what the HELL was he doing??

  7. Yes, thanks for getting the report up so quickly. The scrum did indeed deserve special praise. Tovey good shout for MoM though Hamish and Ritchie (card aside) also contenders. Gilco carried hard but too easily turned over for me. Holding onto the 7s contingent is going to be essential for development of the attack. Bennett will be a big boost too.

  8. If they keep playing like that results will come. Just a few wee errors, and some at best inconsistent officiating cost them dearly.
    Agree that SHC shouldn’t have been subbed – his best game for a long time. Ritchie is going to be in contention for the AIs if he’s not careful. Dumb card though.

  9. Refs will always favour the perceived “better” sides/players. It’s not (usually) deliberate but born of weakness of mind.

    As a team Edinburgh need to earn the refs positive attention (through winning) and the decisions will follow.

    They can’t change the ref but over time they can reduce the bias by doing better and being higher profile.

    Would Watson have got a yellow for the same tackle as Ritchie? Perhaps not. Tovey in place of Sexton? Probably.

    One day they may even be on the right side of bias.

    1. Well said. This has always been the case (no card for Sexton, and the lineout decision at the end were bizarre though)

  10. That rumbling noise you can hear is Cockers trying to keep a lid on his temper. Third consecutive game where refereeing decisions have been vital, and not once in Edinburgh’s favour.

    Admittedly against Benetton, they should never have been in the position of needing a penalty try in the last minute, but it should’ve been given. Two completely dubious tries for the Scarlets. Then that horror show last night. If that was fairly reffed, then Edinburgh would’ve won. It’s as simple as that.

    1. Quality of referees in pro-12 has always been poor and we’re not the only ones who feel hard done by. Useful for cockers to build a bit more of a siege mentality and us against them feeling in the squad. Sometimes Edinburgh can be a bit too nice and seem like they don’t quite mean it. Sounds like a hugely encouraging display last night.

  11. What a curates egg Edinburgh are, Kinghorn typifies Edinburgh, sometimes brilliant sometimes naive

    I thought Ritchie was superb last night (like a quicker Rob Harley). Just about deserved the YC

    Only a lack of a Hogg, Seymour, Huw Jones type / quality denied Edinburgh a victory.

    Once Bennett (& probably VDM) return this will add an veneer of quality to the backs.

    Johnstone’s performance last night prompted why has he been seen more off in an Edinburgh shirt

  12. I’d keep The same team for next week. Cockerill does however need to change the game plan of not playing any rugby in their half. You can’t win games against the top teams by kicking that much possession away.

    He should be getting guys like Johnson, Fife and Watson on the ball as much as possible as well.

    In respect of Kinghorn, one has to remember he is only 20. His awareness, tackling and general all round play will improve over the next season or so. Bryce should continue to start as he is more rounded a player.

    1. They do kick a lot, but I thought the kick chase was actually fairly decent. I don’t mind kicking as long as the kick is well pressurised. Felt like Edinburgh did quite well with both possession and territory from kicking.

      1. Still, you don’t win the big games only playing in the opposition half. The kick chase was ‘decent’, I agree. But you have to be regaining possession on it, that’s the ultimate goal. This is why Ireland are so good because they will probably get the ball back 50% of the time. I’m just saying play anything from the 10metre line onwards.

        The more I watch Edinburgh this season the more I am getting excited that next season they will be a strong team, especially when you consider a few more quality signings and guys like Crosbie, Kinghorn, Turner etc having more experience.

        I still think they’ll end up doing fairly well this season as they have new signings in VDM and Bennett, plus Sutherland to join the squad once fit.

  13. Edinburgh shouldn’t be pleased with the result, but they should be with their performance. There was a lot of grit and commitment on show, and Leinster will have been glad to get the win after probably targeting this as a BP game.

    Tovey was excellent, ably supported by Johnstone. Ritchie played very well, and I thought CdP had one of his best games for a long while.

    You can sense that the squad are beginning to get that they are to work for each other, that they have to go that extra half yard at every breakdown. Sure, there are still some skills gaps, but that can be worked on. As the skills improve, and the squad mentality matures I think Edinburgh will progress. I don’t think this season will be the break through, at least not the first half, but post Christmas I think they will shock a few teams.

    Last thought – they can’t afford to stand still as both Italian sides seem to be benefitting from having Conor O’Shea overseeing Italian rugby.

  14. Most of what I would have said has already been covered but its worth stating again that the ref made some poor decisions. Not biased but certainly far too cosy with the Leinster players.

    Not already mentioned of those poor decisions was not seeing or perhaps recognising the late and no arms tackle on Kinghorn whose wayward kick led to the last Leinster try.

    From a performance point of view everyone seemed to keep going for the full 80 (well as much of it as the ref allowed anyway) and I include Grant Gilchrist in that but to be considering him for MoM when he turned over the ball at least 3 times in contact is a bit surprising.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion