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Edinburgh 11 Leinester 6: Fife bangs the drum for Solomon's excellent troops

Cool heads on a chill Murrayfield evening brought Edinburgh this thoroughly deserved win against last season's RaboDirect PRO12 champions.

Edinburgh's Ollie Atkins attempts to break Martin Moore's tackle. Picture: Craig Watson/SNS
Edinburgh's Ollie Atkins attempts to break Martin Moore's tackle. Picture: Craig Watson/SNS

As Leinster are also rated in some quarters as the form team in Europe at the moment, this was also a massive confidence boost for Alan Solomons side, even if the Irish outfit turned up with something close to a second-string pack.

Still, you can only play what's in front of you, and Edinburgh's game management was superb. Even without the likes of Jamie Heaslip and Sean O'Brien, Leinster still had Brian O'Driscoll in their ranks, although a few in the meagre Murrayfield crowd may not have noticed the Irish legend's presence, so effectively did Edinburgh police him out of the game.

The result levered Edinburgh into the top half of the table, one place behind Glasgow, who lost ground to Ulster and Ospreys when their game was called off, but still eight points back from their Scottish rivals. However, all that could change over the course of the forthcoming 1872 Cup matches.

"That was a good win for us," said Solomons at the end. "For us to get a win was an outstanding performance. It was important that we backed up last week's win against Gloucester and I thought we did that. I thought our defence on our line was outstanding and it speaks volumes for the heart, the grit, the determination and the commitment of the side. It was a wonderful thing to see."

The only downside for Edinburgh was that Solomons felt he could not take the risk of using his bench to any great extent while the scoreline remained so tight. However, he did not express concern about the fact that Glasgow will go into the first of the derby games, on Boxing Day, feeling fresher.

"It's six of one, a half-dozen of the other," Solomons shrugged. "Our main focus is now on recovery for the five-day turnaround."

The weather might not have wreaked the havoc it did at the other end of the M8, although you would wager that even a flooded Scotstoun pitch would be a better playing surface than the ploughed field Murrayfield has now become, but teeming rain and a gusty wind pretty much guaranteed that we were not going to be witness to a festival of silky handling.

In which light the fact the Edinburgh pack looked much the stronger in the early stages offered some comfort to the home supporters who had huddled for warmth at the back of the east stand. However, as solid as Edinburgh were in the set-piece, Leinster were equally obdurate in defence, their refusal to commit numbers to the breakdown helping to keep their line intact.

Against which, it was always going to take a little bit of magic to make the breakthrough, and Edinburgh produced it in the 31st minute when they sent winger Dougie Fife barrelling through for the game's first try. The move began with a muscular break by Ollie Atkins, was carried on by a scuttling run by Greig Laidlaw, and was finished off, after a series of rucks in the Leinster 22 when Jack Cuthbert hoodwinked the Irish defence with his dummy run and Greig Tonks produced a superbly weighted pass for the charging Fife.

In the swirling wind, Laidlaw could not convert, but he nailed his penalty effort six minutes later to give Edinburgh their 8-3 half-time advantage, fly-half Ian Madigan having earlier opened Leinster's account with a penalty in the 21st minute.

Madigan did narrow the gap to two points with his second penalty just three minutes after the break, but his score was quickly cancelled out by another of the same from Laidlaw. It was a period in which the Edinburgh pack looked increasingly assured as they went about their business, a stark contrast to the patterns of earlier in the season.

Still, though, they could not put a distance between themselves and their opponents, and the game passed the hour mark without any further change to the scoreboard. What Edinburgh did have going for them was that they mostly kept Leinster pinned down in their own half, although the shortcomings of Madigan, whose performance must have left their supporters pining for the memory of Jonny Sexton, also played a part in establishing that pattern. Madigan soon made way for Jimmy Gopperth, but the former Newcastle playmaker got off to a dismal start of his own when his misplaced clearance fell into the arms of Laidlaw, who launched a bold counter-attack from near the Leinster 10-metre line. The move led to an Edinburgh lineout just a few yards short of the try-line. Edinburgh were perhaps a little lucky to regain possession, but they used it well and Cornell du Preez almost claimed their second try, but was penalised for not releasing.

Edinburgh had another chance to enter the comfort zone when they were awarded a penalty in the 73rd minute, but Laidlaw's effort drifted wide. The miss seemed to energise Leinster and they mounted one last, furious assault on their hosts' line, but the combination of superb defence and a ball spilled at a critical moment kept them out.

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