BRIAN O’DRISCOLL STILL had the energy to sign autographs for young Edinburgh fans and many of the travelling Leinster supporters at the end of his 80-minute shift at Murrayfield.
As Isaac Boss prepared to come on with 11 minutes to go of Leinster’s 31-16 win away to Edinburgh, logic seemed to suggest the New Zealander [as versatile as he is laid-back] would replace O’Driscoll, with Gordon D’Arcy shifting to outside centre.
Instead it was D’Arcy, who scored his first try in 14 months, that jogged off for the Tokoroa-native as O’Driscoll took his place in the backline and gave instructions to Andrew Conway and Ian Madigan.
34-years-old in just over two weeks and just back from two months on the sideline, O’Driscoll saw out the match and instigated Leinster’s last meaningful assault of a match they comfortably won.
Luke Fitzgerald, in his first outing of the season, and Rob Kearney, taking to the field for the first time since an away loss to Connacht in September, lasted 63 and 62 respective minutes.
The bonus point victory was wrapped up with 13 minutes to spare when Ian Madigan profited from a multi-phase attack. He jogged back to his position in the backline as Jonny Sexton slotted over the extras and so did O’Driscoll.
The Ireland captain was not going anywhere.
The Madigan try came as a direct result of a 50-metre break from Sean O’Brien.
Playing at openside flanker, O’Brien put in a magnificent performance that full-merited the man of the match award he was duly presented with post-game.
He told TG4, “The ground was heavy; it was tough going. Edinburgh are a good side and it took a long time to break them down but, thankfully, we did.
“They’re big lads and they hit hard. They’re not easy to run into. I’ll be sore in the morning.” O’Brien added:
[The bonus point win] will keep us in the hunt for the top four. The important thing is we did what we set out to do during the week.
“Obviously there are areas to work on but there always are.”
Schmidt will be satisfied with his side as they claimed just their third try bonus point of the Pro12 season. It is a boost for a team that has scored three tries from four Heineken Cup games.
Ulster, by scoring five tries in a 47-17 win against Scarlets, gave Leinster a brutal template of the pressing, dynamic rugby needed to break down the Welsh side.
Miracles are needed if Leinster are to progress from Heineken Cup Pool 5 but they have a few miracle workers back on call.