Leinster don’t really need to win any more games in the Pro 14, but being beaten by Edinburgh 28-11 is not a nice way to go into the quarter final next week.
We were out muscled. Their pack bullied us, punishing us at scrum time and winning the key collisions all over the park.
Edinburgh have secured a quarter final spot in Europe this year, hosting Munster next week, so this result should not come as a huge surprise despite Leinster’s un-catchable lead at the top of the conference table.
Their first try, a penalty try, was awarded from a scrum. Their next two came after long periods of pressure, building up phase after phase until they got within inches.
Eventually Leinster lost concentration, a gap appeared and the score was taken. The video analysis will point the finger at some soft tackling, but in a game where Leinster had to make over two hundred tackles, it is not surprising that fatigue set in against non-stop attack.
Edinburgh are fighting for position in the Pool; they wanted the win more than Leinster. They also treated this as a warm up match for next week, when they will host Munster in the same ground.
With Munster taking their time to beat Zebre yesterday – they were twelve points behind at one stage – they will need a much better performance next week. Edinburgh laid down a marker on Friday night. They are not here just to make up the numbers.
There were moments of good Leinster play – Jimmy O’Brien one of those that stood out with his mazy running – and we will probably see some of the players retained for next week. Sean Cronin scored another try and looks in the right frame of mind to tackle Ulster next week.
It always seems a shame to play league matches in Murrayfield. The cavernous space is mostly empty and cheers of the crowd can sometimes ring hollowly against the plastic seating. But Friday night’s match gave the home supporters plenty to cheer about with four tries giving them a chance to catch third placed Treviso in the pool.
With the Six Nations ending in such an anti-climax, for Irish supporters at least, everyone is eager to get stuck into the European matches next week. The fixtures this weekend did not capture much imagination. All eyes are on next weekend.
Do we have anything to fear from Ulster? Maybe. We usually approach the quarter final games in Aviva Stadium with a bit of cheer, expecting an easy win. Landsdown Road is as much a home for the men from Ulster as it is for us. This is a game on neutral territory this year, and there is likely to be a large following of fans making the trip down the M1.
Leinster are being given a fifteen point spread for the game. Had Ireland, with Leinster players making up the backbone of the team, performed better in the Six Nations, then I might say the spread is fair, however, we simply don’t know if the problems that manifested at international level will infect the province.
The game in Edinburgh did not reduce the trepidation I feel. Cronin and Leavy might expect to make the match day selection, but they got a bruising over in Scotland this weekend.
The key is Johnny Sexton. He did not seem to gel well with Conor Murray. I feel that if he plays a good game then Leinster will win comfortably. If Ulster manage to get under his skin, we could be in for a nervous end to the match.
With the weather warming up it feels like Spring is finally here. Let’s hope Leinster can repeat the close out to last season. The next two months are were the trophies are really won. Ulster will be tough, and the next match tougher. Saracens are the likely prize should we get to Newcastle in May.
That’s looking too far ahead. Focus will be on Ulster and besting Best and his team. They were friends and colleagues last week; on Saturday they will do their utmost to beat one another.
Forget about Ireland and the Six Nations; it’s in the past. There are three Irish teams competing in Europe. Plenty to get excited about.