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Dublin: 9 °C Saturday 15 December, 2018

'Christ, they're a good side, but they had to play well to get past us'

Richard Cockerill was encouraged by Edinburgh’s performance at the RDS on Saturday night.

IN STICKING WITH their game-plan, and playing mostly attritional and stick-it-up-the-jumper rugby, Edinburgh made a contest of Saturday’s Pro14 clash for 39 minutes but not many teams go to the RDS and grind out any sort of a result against Leinster, let alone doing it with that approach.

Fergus McFadden goes over for the opening try Fergus McFadden scored Leinster's opening try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

To be fair to Richard Cockerill’s teak-tough side, they made Leinster work for their bonus-point victory but the visitors were always going to run out of steam and surrender to the defending Pro14 and European champions.

“Christ, they’re a good side,” Cockerill sighed afterwards. 

The final tally of five tries to one neatly summarises the gulf in class between the sides, but the real point of difference was Leinster’s vastly superior skill and variety in attack, whereas Edinburgh resorted to pick-and-jams and, if they were ambitious, one-off runners off mauls. 

With Edinburgh’s physically-imposing front five hammering away in the trenches, Leinster were still forced to defend stoically, diligently and with great concentration, as they shut the door after a 30-phase siege on their line in the first half.

At the other end, a slickly-executed training-ground move off a lineout on this near side resulted in James Lowe finishing superbly in the corner to add to Fergus McFadden’s 16th-minute opener.

A 12-0 half-time lead was momentarily cut when Magnus Bradbury broke through the tackles of Luke McGrath and Garry Ringrose to dot down with an out-stretched arm, but Leinster responded like the champions they are, pitching tent in the Edinburgh 22 thereafter.

Lowe had a second try correctly ruled out after Josh van der Flier’s final pass to the Kiwi winger veered forward, but the third score wasn’t long in coming as McGrath, Robbie Henshaw and Johnny Sexton combined for Jordan Larmour to dance through two defenders and finish under the posts.

Sexton tacked on the bonus-point score shortly after to mark the occasion of his 150th appearance for the province with his 25th try, before Ringrose completed the scoring in the dying embers as he streaked clear down the left after McFadden’s initial burst.

Edinburgh, for their part, finished with 14 men after replacement loosehead prop Pierre Schoeman was shown red for leading with his forearm into Dan Leavy’s face when carrying in midfield.

Overall, Cockerill was encouraged by the fight his side showed in their performance.

“It was a bloody tough game for us, Leinster played very well, but they had to play very well to get past us,” the Edinburgh head coach said.

“I’m happy with the performance to a degree, we made some errors, but Christ they’re a good side. They picked a good side, and we worked bloody hard.

Pierre Schoeman dejected after the game Pierre Schoeman was shown red late on. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“But we’ve got to come to places like this and compete and I thought we did, and we’ve got to keep growing our team and learning from nights like tonight.”

The Englishman was most impressed with Leinster’s relentless work-rate and intensity, with the eastern province showing their clinical edge with moments of quality throughout the 80 minutes. 

“They just kept coming didn’t they? They’re accurate with the ball, they’re good with their carry, their clean out, they’re good everywhere across the field and when they get their chances they take them,” Cockerill continued.

“We defended manfully, the red card at the end took a bit of gloss off it, and the last try too, but they know they’ve been in a contest don’t they, I don’t think we came and got rolled over easily.”

On the dismissal of Schoeman, Cockerill had no qualms about the referee’s decision to brandish red after Dan Jones had consulted with his TMO Simon McDowell.

“It is [a red] these days, you’ve got to protect people. I don’t think it was malicious from our guy, he’s [Leavy] dropping a fraction, but look, it happens, it’s an accident more than anything and we know the consequences if it happens.

“We had chances, we kicked the ball away, then we ended up dropping the ball and making a mistake — those are the key parts, you only get a few opportunities against good teams.

“If you want to come here and win you have to be really accurate, and really good. We battled hard, we’re developing as a team, we’re not a soft touch are we, which is a good starting point.

“I don’t think we came and capitulated, we battled hard and we were in the fight. They deserved to win, the score was a little bit top heavy at the end, but we’ve got to learn from these nights, and the only way to do that is to play against the bests teams, and Leinster are one of the best teams.

“Leo’s doing a good job, they’re going to be a hard side to beat on any front.” 

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Ryan Bailey

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