|Pro14: Edinburgh v Leinster|
|Edinburgh 28 (14)|
|Tries: WP Nel, Penalty Try, Ford, Mata Cons: Van der Walt (4)|
|Leinster 11 (11)|
|Try: Cronin Pens: Frawley (2)|
Edinburgh overcame defending champions and Conference B leaders Leinster to claim a bonus-point win which keeps their Pro14 play-off hopes alive.
A WP Nel score and a penalty try cancelled out Sean Cronin’s touchdown to give the home side a slender 14-11 half-time lead.
Ross Ford ploughed over to stretch Edinburgh’s advantage and Bill Mata ensured they took maximum points.
Richard Cockerill’s side move up to fourth, two points from the play-offs.
They leapfrogged Conference B rivals Scarlets, who they face next in the league, before playing third-place Ulster and Glasgow, as they aim to reach the latter stages for a second consecutive season.
Edinburgh stumble, then take control
After a terrific run which saw them string together seven straight wins in all competitions across December and January, Edinburgh’s form had fallen off a cliff of late.
Three defeats in their last four, with winning positions against Southern Kings and Cardiff frittered away, left Cockerill’s men realistically needing four wins from their last four league matches to reach the play-offs.
After a 10-month injury layoff, the sight of John Barclay finally striding out onto the Murrayfield pitch in Edinburgh colours was a great sight for the home supporters.
The Scotland captain would have been breathing hard in a frantic opening five minutes that did not feature a single break in play. When things finally settled down, fly-half Ciaran Frawley kicked Leinster into the lead.
Fraser McKenzie’s dangerous ruck clearance on Noel Reid resulted in Edinburgh going down to 14 men, the relief for the home side being his absence was for only 10 minutes. Given the recklessness of the tackle, and that Reid did not reappear after failing the resulting HIA, McKenzie may have been slightly fortunate the card was not red.
Edinburgh’s punishment came in the form of Leinster’s opening try, hooker Cronin peeling off the base of a powerful line-out maul to dive over.
The home side had passed up two kickable penalties for no reward, but at the third time of asking and after 20 or so phases battering at the Leinster line, WP Nel finally found the opening.
The Scotland prop was heavily involved in Edinburgh’s second try, their scrum deemed dominant enough for referee Ben Whitehouse to rule their momentum was halted illegally by Leinster and award a penalty try.
The three-point half-time lead soon became 10, veteran hooker Ross Ford flopping over to finish off the rolling line-out maul.
A fourth try would seal the win and a crucial bonus point in the race for the playoffs but Leinster, despite their mammoth lead at the top of Conference B already assuring their playoff spot, defended their line ferociously.
Cosmic rugby it was not from Edinburgh, but again their patience was rewarded when Mata ploughed over to claim that vital fourth try.
After a promising opening 15 minutes, an under-strength Leinster were devoid of anything resembling an attacking threat.
Edinburgh saw things out in relative comfort, something they are unlikely to experience when Munster come calling next weekend in the quarter-final of the European Champions Cup.
Edinburgh: Fife, Graham, Johnstone, Scott, Van der Merwe, Van der Walt, Pyrgos, Schoeman, Ford, Nel, McKenzie, Toolis, Barclay, Watson, Mata.
Replacements: Fenton, Dell, Berghan, Hunter-Hill, Bradbury, Shiel, Hickey, Dean.
Leinster: Frawley, McFadden, Reid, Tomane, Daly, Byrne, McGrath, Byrne, Cronin, Bent, Murphy, Kearney, Ruddock, Leavy, Deegan.
Replacements: Byrne, McGrath, Porter, Dunne, Dowling, McCarthy, J O’Brien, C O’Brien.