Sunday 23 September 2018

Blues move into pole position

Leinster 30 Edinburgh 23 - Fitzgerald sparks four-try second-half haul to put pressure back on Connacht

Leinster’s Richardt Strauss, is tackled by Edinburgh’s John Hardie during the Guinness PRO12 clash at the RDS Arena, Ballsbridge, Dublin last night. Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster’s Richardt Strauss, is tackled by Edinburgh’s John Hardie during the Guinness PRO12 clash at the RDS Arena, Ballsbridge, Dublin last night. Photo: Sportsfile

Leinster cut loose for four tries in 20 minutes to move five points clear at the head of the PRO12 table.

They saved their best for the second-half in what was something of a Jekyll and Hyde performance in front of a disappointing crowd of 10,233 last night.

Perhaps, it was all for the better as the entertainment value would have no one rushing back for more of the same based on the three penalties kicked in a mediocre first forty.

At least, Edinburgh showed intent from their first touches when holding the ball long enough to draw a penalty from Richardt Strauss for Jason Tovey to fire them ahead.

Leinser lock Mick Kearney put his shoulder through a tackle to take up the gauntlet.

Jordi Murphy was calm as tail gunner to a maul and Ian Madigan slotted from straight in front when the indiscretion came.

The home side bounded back hard from Ben Te'o's two carries and the exquisite basics of Luke Fitzgerald for Madigan to find the lead in the 12th minute.

The Scots were hampered by Tovey's spill, a faulty lineout and the illegality of WP Nel at the breakdown.

Rhys Ruddock rose highest to claim a ball against the throw to enable Madigan to put Leinster in prime position.

Nel made up for his previous crime with a peach of a poach.

It wasn't enough to quell the pressure as Ruddock tore up the left until Strauss was whistled for holding, under pressure from Nel.

Edinburgh had been warned by referee Marius Mitrea for their work at the ruck before the Italian lost patience with flanker Jamie Ritchie to flash a yellow card.

Leinster went to the maul twice for fine yardage, Strauss breaking away too early from the second just as it looked like it had a chance to go the whole way.

It was left to Noel Reid and Rob Kearney to pick up the pieces from careless use of the ball by Cian Healy, Madigan and Te'o in bringing the first-half to an almost calamitous conclusion.

Surprisingly, the fireworks were on their way.

A piece of individual brilliance from Fitzgerald was facilitated by the link between Strauss and Mick Kearney and Madigan's deceptive inside ball for Luke McGrath to collect a try, Madigan's conversion making it 13-3 in the 44th minute.

However, they narrowed in defence for Tovey to throw a high risk-reward pass for wing Tom Brown to beat a path to the line.

The game had suddenly sprung to life and Noel Reid joined in with a one-handed interception for Josh van der Flier to power home for Madigan's extras to make it 20-8 in the 51st minute.

Their thoughts turned towards the bonus-point.

The dividend arrived from the pinpoint passing of Reid and Fitzgerald for Fergus McFadden to seek out the corner.

The very same ball from Madigan that set up Leinster's first try paved the way for Edinburgh's second from replacement Mike Allen, converted by Tovey on the hour.

There was redemption for the out-half when his decision to hit Rob Kearney out the back was the key to opening the door for McFadden to crash through it for the bonus-point try.

Edinburgh were not done.

Sean Kennedy plunged over, Tovey kicked the conversion and a Sam Hidalgo-Clyne a 79th minute conversion for a losing bonus-point.

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