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Friday 15 December 2017

Leinster leave it late to secure win

Leinster 21 Edinburgh 13

Jonathan Sexton of Leinster breaks through the tackles of James Johnstone, left, and Phil Burleigh of Edinburgh. Photo: Sportsfile
Jonathan Sexton of Leinster breaks through the tackles of James Johnstone, left, and Phil Burleigh of Edinburgh. Photo: Sportsfile

Jamison Gibson-Park saved Leinster's blushes with a 73rd minute try in what was a patchy performance against a highly-motivated Edinburgh at the RDS last night

The return of four Leinster Lions, led by Jonathan Sexton, promised a rise in standards and stature of the men around them.

The engine room was also stoked up by the insertion of new father Devin Toner and father-to-be Scott Fardy.

It was a prime time to send out a message to Munster next Saturday and to Montpellier and Glasgow Warriors for the opening rounds of The Champions Cup.

Instead, Edinburgh retrieved the kick-off. Fly-half Jason Tovey slipped by Rhys Ruddock. Centre James Johnstone evaded Noel Reid and Jack McGrath was beaten by the footwork of Cornell du Preez for Tovey's penalty to make it 3-0 in the fifth minute.

Then, centre Johnstone split open Rory O'Loughlin and Reid with his powers of evasion.

Leinster's defence looked flimsy as the Scots then came calling around the outside for Joey Carbery to take down Tom Brown.

Referee Ian Davies brought play back for Tovey to double his account for offside in the 11th minute.

A contentious challenge on Dave Kearney from Fife handed Leinster the territory for Seán Cronin to connect with Toner out of touch.Cronin peeled away from a twisting maul and Jordi Murphy picked and plunged for Sexton to convert in the 13th minute.

When Fardy took exception to a mocking tap on the head from prop Darryl Marfo with a retaliatory swipe, he was lucky to escape a yellow card.

Leinster looked rusty as Tovey pulled the strings for Edinburgh. Toner was required to ruin a lineout and Sean O'Brien carried them out of trouble.

Just as they moved into gear, Sexton's flat ball to Cronin was taken to the house by Tovey and the top-up two made it 13-7 on the half hour.

Wallaby Fardy should have had his first try when collecting Sexton's chip, but for the miraculous intervention of wing Brown.

Leinster turned down three shots at goal in pursuit of their second try which eventually came from Carbery's footwork for Sexton's conversion to make it 14-13 at the break.

There was no surprise to see flanker Jamie Ritchie receive a yellow card for hitting into Luke McGrath's legs from the side.

The extra man had to lead to extra points. Jordi Murphy reeled in a lineout and Cronin was at the rear of a marauding maul that lost its' impetus.

Leinster looked at their least dangerous from 5-metres in and Sexton was guilty of a penalty for taking Sam Hidalgo-Clyne too high.

The game was there to be won, for either side, and Noel Reid was left on the ground from a heavy tackle on lock Grant Gilchrist.

Carbery continued to look most likely to break down Edinburgh's resilient and well-organised defence.

It was reminiscent of the PRO14 semi-final when they couldn't take advantage of a red card for the Scarlets.

The scrum began to take control without the set-piece support from a misfiring lineout.

The visitors survived the loss of Ritchie and lock Anton Bresler promptly shot between Sexton and Andrew Porter.

It looked for all the world like Fife had struck for Edinburgh's second try only for Hidalgo-Clyne to be found guilty of obstruction on Fardy.

Even so, it was something they took confidence from to continue to ask questions of the home defence.

irked

It must have irked Sexton to be withdrawn in the 69th minute with the game on the line.

The instructions seemed to be for Ross Byrne to keep Edinburgh penned in.

A gem of a chip forced a wild clearance out of Blair Kinghorn and Max Deegan's athletic take was complemented by Jamison Gibson-Park's snipe for the line, converted by Byrne.

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