Edinburgh made significant progress in their bid for a return to the Pro14 play-offs as they out-muscled the reigning champions to claim a 28-11 win last night while results elsewhere also went their way.

Up against what was essentially a Leinster second XV they got a maximum return on the night as they moved into fourth place in their Conference, leap-frogging the Scarlets, who lost a Welsh derby to Cardiff Blues and closing to within three points of second-placed Treviso.

The way the Irish province started the game demonstrated the sort of strength in depth that allowed them to become the first Celtic team to win a Champions Cup and domestic league double last season as they built an eight point lead.

However, with former Scotland captain John Barclay making his welcome and long-awaited debut in a pack which contained four international colleagues as well as Fijian Bill Mata and South African Pierre Schoeman, they gradually made their power tell, to the satisfaction of their boss.


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“It’s been good to have John in training the last two or three weeks because you can see his experience and the way he talks he knows the game. There’s only so much coaches can do. When guys get on the field they have to manage themselves and John’s been around and had a lot of experience which is a big help to us,” said head coach Richard Cockerill.

“For me it was good to get the international guys back as much as we could because of different calls and different mindsets. You don’t want to be knocking the rust off next week. In some ways it fell well for us because Leinster rested pretty much their whole 23 and you saw the strength of their squad. They made us struggle and look daft for a good portion of that first half, so it’s a good win. We’ve got a lot to improve on and nobody’s going to be overly content with the performance which is good.”

The match had opened with a far from gentle warm-up for both sides, a near five minute period of the ball remaining constantly in play ended before Mick Kearney was held up over the line.

At the resultant five metre scrum, Edinburgh were penalised as Leinster put on the pressure and Ciaran Frawley took the opportunity to open the scoring.

The home side responded by further testing their opponents defence, shifting the ball briskly and they were rewarded with a penalty at a ruck just outside the 22, but Jaco van der Walt’s relatively straightforward chance to level the scores saw his penalty attempt rebound off the right post.


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Edinburgh were then reduced to 14 men when Fraser McKenzie was sin-binned for up-ending Noel Reid as he attempted to clear him from a ruck and the lock looked to be fortunate that the centre landed on his shoulder, albeit he still had to leave the field to undergo a head injury assessment.

With the man advantage, Leinster’s scrum earned them another opportunity when they forced a penalty deep inside the opposition 22, kicked to touch and from the lineout set up a drive which allowed hooker Sean Cronin to register the game’s first try.

Presented with a chance to get on the scoreboard with another kickable penalty just before they were restored to full strength, Edinburgh took their turn to go for touch and set up the drive which initially went well, but after getting to within a couple of metres of the line they lost control of the ball.

The pressure was maintained as McKenzie returned to the fray and after another couple of penalties had been put to the touchline they drove in close once again and, following a succession of phases, WP Nel finally managed to force his way over the line, van der Walt reducing the deficit to a single point with the conversion. That marked the half hour, but three minutes later the gap had widened again after Darcy Graham was collared as he attempted to run the ball out of his 22 and a penalty was conceded at the ruck, Frawley taking the points once again.

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Edinburgh looked to have blown another chance when they failed to secure their own lineout ball, but Jack McGrath was unable to gather the ball and ended up having to take ball over his own line. When the visiting pack was then penalised at a succession of five metre scrums, referee Ben Whitehouse eventually lost patience and awarded a penalty try.

Five minutes into the second half Edinburgh built on that lead when, after Dan Leavy had been sin-binned for illegally stealing the ball at a ruck deep in his own 22, they set up another lineout drive and forced their way over, Ross Ford claiming the touchdown, with van der Walt converting superbly from close to the touch-line to give them a 10 point advantage and nine minutes against 14 men to drive it home with a four try bonus point in range. They were unable to do so, but the flanker returned with his team defending another five metre scrum and while they held out stoutly under relentless pressure over the next six minutes, Bill Mata finally worked his way over close to the posts, Simon Hickey converting, having replaced van der Walt early in the half.