Planet Rugby

Leinster conquer Pool Two

25th January 2009 14:42

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Leinster top the Heineken Cup Pool Two after their 12-3 win over Edinburgh at the RDS - and Wasps' defeat in France - on Sunday.

In a terrible game, ruled by the whistle and pitching two tense teams together, it was Edinburgh's indiscipline that counted in the end. Leinster took their opportunities, with Felipe Contepomi deadly with the boot, but they'll have to play a good deal better than this to get beyond the next round.

Leinster were edgy at the start, making all sorts of odd errors and struggling to open up any sort of gap. The edginess was understandable; they played like a team needing a four-try victory to be certain of qualification. There was unease as to whether they should grab the win first then go for glory, or just go for broke from the off.

Edinburgh's side featured nine changes from that which beat Castres last week and was further disrupted by the late withdrawal of Simon Webster due to a back spasm in the warm-up. They also played true to form: like a young team playing one of its first big-time games.

The pressure told on the visitors more in the form of an extraordinary penalty count which had reached 13-6 against the visitors by half-time. There were more penalties than points. Factor in the number of scrum resets - some 15 in the first half alone - and the handling errors and kicks - too many to count - and you get some idea of what the rhythm was like.

Leinster's brightest spark by far was Rob Kearney, who threatened every time a loose ball was kicked his way. Edinburgh rarely threateened their hosts' line. It was a learning curve for Andy Robinson's proteges, not a sympathetic one.

The visitors began the match with gusto, turning over a couple of ruck balls and shoving Leinster off an early scrum, but that soon wore out. Leinster's pack got the upper hand, especially with ball in hand, and dominated the opening quarter in a tight match. Whistle after whistle came from Chris White as Edinburgh's scrum creaked and back row interfered. Once Felipe Contepomi had landed the first, Leinster began to relax. A second penalty followed shortly after.

Brian O'Driscoll made one scorching outside break which fell flat for a lack of support. Kearney, Luke Fitzgerald and Jamie Heaslip combined thrillingly up the left, and when the latter rboke again into edinburgh's 22, John Houston saw fit to haul down Contepomi in support before Heaslip had passed. Houston was sent to the bin, Contepomi made it 9-0.

Chris Paterson and Contepomi exchanged a penalty each more before the break, Contepomi's after a tearaway break by Fitzgerald, but that was it for a dismal first half.

After a brief Edinburgh resurgence, Leinster assumed further control after the break. Heaslip once again was the battering ram breaking dow the defence, carrying the ball to 5m where only a wayward final pass from Contepomi denied his side a try. O'Driscoll surged to 2m from the line but the support knocked the ball on. Leinster spent minutes 45-55 camped inthe Edinburgh 22. But the try would not come, all efforts stopped by some magnificent Edinburgh defence.

Instead, the rain came, and drowned out Leinster's chance for fluidity. The blue pack turned their camp in Edinburgh's 22 into a settlement, but every time the line appeared in sight, the ball would squirt from someone's grasp.

Moreover, every time Leinster's pack got down for a 5m scrum, Edinburgh produced a shove. they were valiant in defeat, while Leinster continue into another quarter-final.

The scorers:

For Leinster:

Pens: Contepomi 4

For Edinburgh:

Pen: Paterson

Yellow card: Houston (Edinburgh, 26, tackle off the ball)

Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney 14 Shane Horgan, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Felipe Contepomi, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Isa Nacewa, 9 Chris Whitaker (c), 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Trevor Hogan, 3 Stan Wright, 2 Bernard Jackman, 1 Cian Healy.

Replacements: 16 John Fogarty, 17 Ollie le Roux, 18 Stephen Keogh, 19 Sean O'Brien, 20 Chris Keane, 21 Gordon D'Arcy, 22 Girvan Dempsey.

Edinburgh: 15 Chris Paterson, 14 Andrew Turnbull, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 John Houston, 11 James Thompson, 10 David Blair, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Allister Hogg, 7 Simon Cross, 6 Scott Newlands, 5 Ben Gissing, 4 Craig Hamilton, 3 Geoff Cross, 2 Andrew Kelly, 1 Kyle Traynor.

Replacements: 16 Steve Lawrie, 17 Gavin Kerr, 18 Jim Hamilton, 19 Alan MacDonald, 20 Ben Meyer, 21 Jim Thompson, 22 Roland Reid.

Referee: Chris White (England)

Touch judges: Roy Maybank (England), Stuart Terheege (England)

Television match official: Geoff Warren (England)

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