Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


PRO14 Round 18: Edinburgh 28-11 Leinster

John Barclay
John Barclay in action for Edinburgh Rugby vs Leinster - pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

A domestic season high of 6661 spectators (excluding the 1872 cup)  turned up at BT Murrayfield to watch Edinburgh v Leinster on Friday night. Post Six Nations withdrawal symptoms there may be but it felt good to be back at what one of my fellow supporters calls ‘his church’.

Leinster have already wrapped up Conference B and as a result, took the opportunity to rest some of their front line players. They were then further troubled by the late withdrawal of stand-off Ross Byrne.  On the face of it this was a Leinster seconds but don’t be fooled by that. Their seconds are better than many first teams and averaged 77 caps a man in the starting XV. Hardly inexperienced.

Edinburgh welcomed back several of their international cohort fresh from the ultimate game of two halves and we also saw the much belated first appearance of John Barclay sans microphone.

Leinster kicked off to start the match and Edinburgh lost possession almost straight away which put the home side on the back foot. Leinster kicked an easy penalty in the 7th minute through the boot of stand-in stand-off Ciaran Crowley and dominated possession at this early juncture.

Edinburgh also had a shot at goal a few minutes later but Jaco Van Der Walt’s strike hit the right hand upright and Leinster were able to clear their lines.

On the 12th minute, Fraser McKenzie saw yellow after a lengthy TMO intervention for a tip tackle. It didn’t take long for Leinster to capitalise on their extra man advantage as Sean Cronin forced his way over for the first try of the night. Crowley missed the conversion to leave the score at 0-8 and at this point some doubt may have started to permeate the home support.

They survived the rest of McKenzie’s sin bin period though and grew into the game, dominating both possession and territory without seeming to cause any great difficulty to the Leinster defence.

The dam burst on 31 minutes when WP Nel scored his first try of the season, muscling his way over the try line following a series of rucks in the Leinster 5 metre channel. Van Der Walt made no mistake with the conversion to close the gap to a point, only for Leinster to kick another penalty a few minutes later to extend it back out.

Edinburgh forwards
The Edinburgh pack were only going one way for most of this game – pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

As the half time whistle loomed Edinburgh finally put their forward dominance to good use.  Attacking the southwest corner of the ground they kicked to the corner and although they made a hash of the lineout, Leinster were forced to touchdown behind their own try line, resulting in an Edinburgh scrum. Under pressure from WP Nel, Leinster’s Ed Byrne collapsed the set piece. Edinburgh played through a lengthy advantage before they came back for another scrum. Although referee Ben Whitehouse judged that this scrum failed due a slip it was clear that Nel had the upper hand in this battle. Reset number 3: Byrne collapsed the scrum again.

Edinburgh were awarded a penalty try but the referee decided (contrary to law 8.3) against issuing a yellow card to Byrne. Leinster probably got off lightly as a result.

Half-time: Edinburgh 14-11 Leinster

In what looked like a clear case of making up for the earlier error it took referee Whitehouse a mere 5 minutes of the second half to issue a yellow card to a Leinster player. Flanker Dan Leavy being the perhaps undeserved victim after being adjudged to have killed the ball at a ruck in the Leinster 22.

Ross Ford try
Ross Ford scores for Edinburgh. He got the ball down, honest – pic © Alastair Ross / Novantae Photography

Edinburgh kicked to the corner from the penalty. A maul was formed and driven over the Leinster try line. Ross Ford, who was having a fine game for home side, scored the try. Van Der Walt kicked the difficult conversion to give them a decent cushion.

Edinburgh got the bonus point try on 61 minutes through Bill Mata. 29 phases of pick and drives were repelled by the Leinster defence before the big Fijian managed to force his way over supported by Fraser McKenzie. Van Der Walt kicked the conversion and as the last quarter continued Edinburgh had a 17 point lead.

That was how the game finished despite a concerted effort by Leinster in the last few minutes of the game which Edinburgh defended successfully to deny the Dublin side any points in the second half.

This was a match in which forward play dominated and it won’t have escaped anyone’s attention that Edinburgh’s wingers, usually such a potent threat, didn’t see much of the ball. Duhan Van Der Merwe specifically had zero carries. Perhaps given Edinburgh’s clear advantage in that area it was the correct approach but it was definitely one for scrum aficionados.

Along with other results going the right way on the night, the five league points could well prove to be pivotal in the team’s bid to keep their season and the momentum going heading into the Heineken Cup quarter final V Munster next weekend.

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)

Attendance: 6,661

SRBlog Man of the Match: Whilst it’s hard to argue with John Barclay being given the official award I’m giving ours to WP Nel. He scored a good forwards try and with the scrum being Edinburgh’s key attacking weapon in this match his domination of Ed Byrne was at the cornerstone of a crucial win.

17 Responses

  1. Very solid win.

    Edinburgh kept it in the forwards, the outside backs didn’t get the ball, Graham got himself involved on occasion, I had to check if VDM was playing (not his fault really)

    Barclay/Scott look fit & strong, Mata is a machine. Line out wobbled when Toolis went off. Scrum dominated (not a surprise given the front row). Hickie played well after VDW went off. All in all a very satisfactory start to a crucial period

  2. Great result for Edinburgh against an admittedly weakened Leinster side – made even better with heavy (no losing bonus point) losses for Scarlets and Benetton. With Glasgow and Edinburgh both playing Ulster in the final matches, the path to a top 3 finish is looking a lot rosier for Edinburgh.

    I thought we got the rub of the green from Mr Whitehouse. Quite a few calls tipped our way, not least Fraser MacKenzie’s yellow. To me, it looked like the player landed on his head, or at least could have been interpreted that way. Good to see the ref dealing with Leinster’s clearly coached ploy of ‘rolling away’ into Pyrgos at the ruck to steal an extra second.

    1. Still on a knife edge for Edinburgh though, isn’t it? Assuming Ulster get 5 points at home against Kings today they’ll be 7 points ahead with 3 left to play. Edinburgh will need to beat Ulster, as well as Scarlets away, with Ulster losing to both Scottish sides to nose one point ahead (assuming no bps) going into a last weekend with Edinburgh away to Glasgow and Ulster at home to (a possibly focussing on other things) Leinster. May have a better chance of nosing ahead of Benetton, who have to go to Leinster, welcome (a home SF chasing) Munster, and then Zebre up last. That looks really tight as well though!
      Any slip up and the best Edinburgh can hope for is a 4th place play off for European qualification, which at the moment would be away to Cardiff, who just annihilated Scarlets…

      1. Still looks doubtful for Edinburgh and very disappointing as they really shouldn’t be in this position but have lost too many ‘easy’ games and throwing away benetton match was nail in the coffin.

        Will be a sober return to challenge cup if they don’t make it but at least they can focus on league placing whilst they build depth in their squad.

      2. To be fair, last night aside (arguably) Edinburgh have had some really bad luck with referees – their first two games this season were handed to the opposition by refereeing mistakes, as was the Benetton game. That’s especially important when two of teams ahead of them have benefitted from these errors.

        And whilst I can see the argument for Ed getting lucky last night regarding FM’s YC (the replays weren’t really sufficient to see whether the player landed on his head, but a decision was reached regardless), I thought Whitehouse was consistent elsewhere. Yes, I’d have argued that Watson should have been YCed, but Leinster gave away loads of penalties in their 5m zone without being YCed, got away with a fair bit of nonsense without being penalised, and got away with a vital turnover when their 8 was the second man in. If Whitehouse had remained consistent and Edinburgh contrived to lose, I don’t think many fans would be pointing to his performance.

    2. So far I’ve found Whitehouse a good ref. I think last night he really was unimpressed by Leinsters tactics. Leinster fans would be fuming.

      Leinster really struggled to adjust, once their slowing down game was rumbled.

      Just shows what we’re missing out on when the likes of Clancy, Lacey, Mitrea, that bald South African (Berry?) are in charge- all way too permissive with BS around the ruck.

      1. I thought he wasn’t very good in previous seasons, but this season I think he and Andrew Brace have really upped their game.

      2. Interestingly our Twitter was peppered with Irish (mostly Munster, not Leinster) fans who clearly don’t rate Mr Whitehouse at all. About as much as we rate, say Lacey or Clancy.

    3. I agree with what you’ve all said. Re Ed’s chances of Top 3, I just know I have quite a bit more hope after yesterday’s matches than before, even though a lot has to go Edinburgh’s way to make it happen.

      Re the ref’s performance, I also think he did a good job and that he’s a good communicator, but remember feeling relieved on a few occasions – principally FM’s yellow not red + especially the Pyrgos interception attempt being seen as a knock-on rather than yellow card + penalty try. For that latter decision, I think at least 7 out of 10 refs on recent form would have gone for yc/pt given it was almost a certain try if the pass had been completed.

      I also thought Leavy was a bit unlucky to get penalised/binned at the start of the second half. If it was a penalty then a yellow was the right call, given all of Leinster’s other ruck shenanigans and multiple penalties in the red zone either side of half time. But I wasn’t totally convinced it was a penalty.

      Overall, though, happy that our traditional sense of Scottish teams getting on the wrong end of 50-50 calls is no longer always the case!

      1. Yeah, I forgot about the knock on. I don’tbthink Many would have awarded a PT, but it should have been at least a penalty and probably a YC. Then again, Leinster arguably should have a second YC for their shenanigans, hence I think he was probably pretty fair.

  3. It seems churlish to say so, but I felt strangely unhappy at the end of the game. Embra scored their BP try with 18mins to go, but still felt unable to go beyond the match tactics of keeping it tight.

    They are going to have to do more next week to beat Munster and it would have been good to have seen the backs get some ball – if only to blow away the cobwebs for next week.

    Fantastic debut from Barclay – I wonder if he is in the process of reinventing himself as a ball carrying 6? It was always the weakest part of his game, but he was doing some excellent carrying and making yards.

    Matt Scott too, practically every collision he had was around his head area, the fact he was fine bodes well for his confidence. He’s put the beef on too and looks like a very sturdy 12 – I always liked his lines of running and defence, the extra bulk will enhance that. A good alternative to Johnson from a Scotland perspective.

    1. Barclay…He seemed to be very effective with low body position getting under the “high” tackle positions of the Leinstermen. Watson too.

      Mata Scott Bradbury were sometimes going for the “big bust through” up high with pace…I guess this keeps the offload ‘on’ and you’re less off balance, so its good when it works, but not as effective overall I thought.

    1. I thought Fordy was excellent on Friday – bar a couple of mishaps in the lineout – which were as much about the jumpers as him.

      1. We probably can but I’d love to see him there. Has he done well last few weeks? Ppl reckon he’ll get on the bench on Sat? Probably needs a couple more good shows to make it possible. He doesn’t seem like a chap who wouldn’t give his all and only 18 months ago was he playing his best rugby.

        Hopefully he’s helping Cockerill see him doing a job going forward perhaps?

  4. With Barclay, Watson and Mata Edinburgh have one of the best back-rows in club rugby. That’s not forgetting Ritchie and Bradburry who are great to have in reserve.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion