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Leinster turn on the style again to put Edinburgh to the sword at the RDS

Leo Cullen’s side made it three bonus-point wins from three at the start of the Pro14 season.

Leinster 40

Edinburgh 14 

AS WAS EXPECTED, this was a much sterner appraisal of Leinster’s early-season credentials than the opening two rounds, but in coming out the right side of a Friday night arm-wrestle, Leo Cullen will have learnt a lot more about the character of his playing group.

The end result was a third straight bonus-point victory for the defending Pro14 champions, following defeats of Benetton and Ospreys, but Leinster were made to work hard to establish the upper-hand before they earned the right to turn on the style yet again.

leinster-players-congratulate-rory-oloughlin-after-being-awarded-a-penalty Leinster made it three from three on Friday night. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Although enjoying large tracts of possession and territory, Cullen’s side found themselves behind on the scoreboard and down to 13 men towards the end of the first half, as Ben Whitehouse’s officiating — particularly the frustrating inconsistency in his interpretation of the set-piece — threatened to turn the contest into a farce.

But Leinster, again imbued with a blend of experience and youthful endeavour, retained their composure to eventually make their dominance count and, in running in six tries, maintain their 100% start to their Pro14 title defence. 

Man-of-the-match Jamison Gibson-Park opened the scoring at the RDS and while the visitors struck back through James Farndale as Michael Bent and then Joe Tomane were sent to the bin, Leinster turned the screw in the minutes before and after the break.

Upon his re-introduction, Bent helped Leinster restore their lead on the stroke of half-time and then the eastern province pulled clear through second-half scores from Caelan Doris, Scott Penny and Michael Milne.

Ross Byrne endured a shaky start off the tee but landed four conversions to ensure Leinster rounded off this initial three-game block with another strong performance, and the evening was embellished further when Rowan Osborne finished off a sweeping move for his first senior try.

A maximum haul of 15 points sees Leinster sit level at the top of Conference A alongside the Cheetahs, who continued their own blistering start to the campaign with a first-ever win over Munster earlier in the day.

Cullen’s side will now have a week off before turning their attention to a trip to Zebre on 26 October, and overall the Leinster head coach and Stuart Lancaster can be satisfied with a lot of what they’ve seen in the opening three rounds.

His yellow card aside, Tomane was again excellent here and appears to be forming an encouraging midfield partnership with Rory O’Loughlin, while the likes of Doris, Penny and Max Deegan were all heavily involved in what became a dog-fight in the trenches. 

rowan-osborne-is-congratulated-by-joe-tomane-after-scoring-a-try Rowan Osborne celebrates his try with Tomane. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Although Leinster dominated the early exchanges, they had to wait until the 16th minute to convert their possession into points, as Byrne spurned two early chances off the tee.

Missing both penalties to the right into a stiff breeze blowing down the ground, Byrne had the kicking tee in his hand again but Leinster’s joy was short-lived when Penny was denied off the back of a rolling maul after the TMO spotted Scott Fardy blocking.

Although level on the scoreboard, Edinburgh — unusually for a Richard Cockerill coached side — were slow to warm to the task and their profligacy at the lineout twice presented Leinster a platform to launch off. 

Initially, Tomane used his considerable brawn in midfield to break the gainline and then, further downfield, the Leinster pack sucked in the white shirts for Byrne to bring the explosive Hugo Keenan into the line at pace.

The fullback demonstrated his ability to glide over the turf by speeding around the outside to feed Dave Kearney, who in turn offloaded back inside while being tracked by Duhan van der Merwe for the ball to ricochet off James Lowe’s head and into the in-goal area where Gibson-Park was first to react. 

Having worked hard to establish a scoreboard advantage, Leinster then found themselves behind as the remainder of the half turned into a mind-numbing stop-start affair — there were 28 penalties in the match in total, with 18 going against Leinster.

Following Gibson-Park’s try, a midfield penalty allowed Jaco van der Walt launch it deep into blue territory, and the visitors then turned to the set-piece.

Under the shadow of the Leinster posts, the home side came under mounting pressure as Edinburgh earned four scrum penalties before Whitehouse sent Bent to the bin for collapsing. 

With the numerical advantage, Edinburgh called for another reset and eventually found the breakthrough as they showed to go left, drawing Tomane to that side, before firing it right where they exploited the overlap for Farndale to go over.

jamison-gibson-park-touches-down-to-score-a-try Gibson-Park was named MOTM. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

To make matters worse for Leinster, Tomane was then sin-binned for sliding in late on Farndale, reducing the hosts to 13 men and gifting Edinburgh another penalty from the restart.

With the home fans incensed, Leinster responded in kind to win a big turnover penalty courtesy of Rory O’Loughlin and then a scrum penalty on halfway, as the Welsh official struggled to show any level of consistency in his decision-making.

Anyway, there was still time for Leinster — back to a full complement — to hit the front again before the break.

Byrne found touch, the forwards punched holes, and with Leinster re-energised by the re-introduction of Bent and Tomane, the latter crashed over with the clock in the red. 

12-7 at half-time, and Leinster wasted little time in extending their lead upon the restart. Keenan was again involved as he made the initial break before the hosts showed patience and precision through the phases to open the door for Doris to get over.

That would be the number eight’s final involvement of the evening as he was forced off shortly after, but Leinster secured the bonus-point with minimal fuss as Penny marked his first appearance of the season with a third senior try.

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The game became fast, loose and increasingly scrappy thereafter as Lowe and O’Loughlin both burst downfield in-between periods of Edinburgh pressure, but the result was made safe after the hour mark as Milne got over for his second try in as many weeks.  

With Cullen unloading his bench, two replacements in Jimmy O’Brien and Osborne started and finished a sensational move down the left as Lowe again demonstrated his x-factor with a sublime offload inside for the young scrum-half to run it home.

Another bonus-point win, 15 points in the bag, a perfect start.

Leinster scorers:

Tries: Jamison Gibson-Park, Michael Bent, Caelan Doris, Scott Penny, Michael Milne, Rowan Osborne.  
Conversions: Ross Byrne [4 from 5], Harry Byrne [1 from 1].
Penalties: Ross Byrne [0 from 2].

Edinburgh scorers:

Tries: James Farndale, Charlie Shiel.
Conversions: Jaco van der Walt [1 from 1], Simon Hickey [1 from 1].

LEINSTER: 15. Hugo Keenan, 14. Dave Kearney, 13. Rory O’Loughlin (Jimmy O’Brien 63′), 12. Joe Tomane, 11. James Lowe, 10. Ross Byrne (Harry Byrne 63′), 9. Jamison Gibson-Park (Rowan Osborne 65′); 1. Peter Dooley (Michael Milne 55′), 2. Rónan Kelleher (James Tracy 55′), 3. Michael Bent (Vakh Abdaladze 55′), 4. Devin Toner, 5. Scott Fardy (captain)(Ross Molony 67′), 6. Max Deegan, 7. Scott Penny, 8. Caelan Doris (Josh Murphy 45′).

EDINBURGH: 15. Damien Hoyland, 14. Jamie Farndale, 13. Mark Bennett, 12. George Taylor (James Johnstone 53′), 11. Duhan van der Merwe (Simon Hickey 53′), 10. Jaco van der Walt, 9. Nic Groom (captain)(Charlie Shiel 59′); 1. Pierre Schoeman (Jamie Bhatti 62′), 2. Mike Willemse (Cameron Fenton 62′), 3. Pietro Ceccarelli (Murray McCallum 62′), 4. Jamie Hodgson, 5. Murray Douglas, 6. Mesulame Kunavula (Ally Miller 49′), 7. Luke Crosbie, 8. Nick Haining.

Replacements not used: 19. Sam Thomson.

Referee: Ben Whitehouse [WRU].

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About the author:

Ryan Bailey  / Reports from the RDS

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