Mark Bennett scored a late winner for Edinburgh as they defeated Leinster in a thrilling Guinness PRO14 clash at Myreside last night.
The victory leaves Edinburgh now right in the mix for a top-three finish in Conference B – and they were thankful to the try by centre Bennett in the 79th minute.
The match also saw the return after a three-month ban for gross misconduct of back-row John Hardie, getting 23 minutes under his belt off the bench.
Edinburgh had gone into the match having won 11 from 14 in all competitions, but the build-up had been dominated by talk about where they will be playing in the future.
We will find out soon enough about plans for a ‘mini Murrayfield’ on the back pitches at BT Murrayfield, but for now the crowd were treated to an end-to-end encounter at Myreside.
The visitors got off to a flying start when they scored a try within the first five minutes, No.8 Max Deegan powering over from short range. Stand-off Ross Byrne converted.
A few minutes later stand-off Jaco van der Walt had the chance to get Edinburgh’s first points on the board, but the South African’s penalty effort drifted wide.
Leinster were slicker and more purposeful up to this point, but in the 14th minute good Edinburgh pressure led to their first try.
Byrne tried to chip a neat little kick over the onrushing Edinburgh defence, but back-row Luke Crosbie read it and managed to charge down the attempt.
The same man, who has had some season given that he began it on an Academy contract having come through at Currie Chieftains, then pounced on the loose ball, picked it up and showed great pace to run in from 40 metres. Van der Walt converted from in front of the posts and it was 7-7.
That gave Edinburgh a boost and three minutes later they once again showed tenacity to set-up try number two.
Leinster full-back Dave Kearney was trying to attack down the stand side from his own half. However, Bennett had other ideas and he stripped the ball in the tackle and, when it came to scrum-half Nathan Fowles, he scampered over for the score.
It was unconverted and the Irish side were clearly irked by Edinburgh’s double score because they were soon back in front.
Their second try came from second-row Scott Fardy, the Australian internationalist, in the 25th minute. Byrne converted.
The visitors then slowed things down and took control for a spell and after the forwards put in the hard yards and sucked in the home defence, the ball was spun wide. Winger Barry Daly was in acres of room, the defence scrambled across and made the finish a bit more difficult than it should have been, but he still scored in the 34th minute.
It was unconverted and before the interval Edinburgh had scored their third try.
In the 39th minute they were awarded a penalty and, rather than go for the posts, Edinburgh went for touch. The gamble paid off and, a few phases after the resultant lineout, they managed to go over from close range with new Scotland cap Murray McCallum the main claiming it.
The tighthead prop’s effort could not be converted by Bennett and that left it at 19-17 to Leinster at the break.
Five minutes into the second period Edinburgh made their first change of the night when Neil Cochrane, who has been training with Scotland, came on at hooker.
Edinburgh had started the half under pressure in the forwards though and they did well to keep Leinster out as the hour mark approached.
In the 57th minute Scotland cap Hardie came on to the field along with fellow internationalists Rory Sutherland and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne. And the trio made an instant impact, helping Edinburgh get on the front foot before big winger Duhan van der Merwe powered through two defenders to score the bonus-point try. Hidalgo-Clyne was the man to miss the conversion this time.
And, once again, Leinster made them pay with an unconverted bonus point try of their own through. That was Daly’s second try in the 65th minute to set-up a thrilling finale.
And it was Bennett who grabbed the glory, getting his hands on a tip back from replacement Glenn Bryce to run in and score.
Edinburgh Rugby: Tries: Crosbie, Fowles, McCallum, Van der Merwe, Bennett. Cons: Van der Walt, Hidalgo-Clyne.
Leinster: Tries: Deegan, Fardy, Daly 2. Cons: R Byrne 2.
Edinburgh Rugby: Dougie Fife; Darcy Graham, Mark Bennett, Chris Dean, Duhan van der Merwe; Jaco van der Walt, Nathan Fowles; Jordan Lay, Cameron Fenton, Murray McCallum, Fraser McKenzie (C), Lewis Carmichael, Luke Crosbie, Jamie Ritchie, Bill Mata. Subs used: Neil Cochrane, Rory Sutherland, Matt Shields, Magnus Bradbury, John Hardie, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Junior Rasolea, Glenn Bryce.
Leinster: Dave Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Rory O’Loughlin, Noel Reid, Barry Daly; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Peter Dooley, Richardt Strauss (C), Michael Bent, Ross Molony, Scott Fardy, Josh Murphy, Will Connors, Max Deegan. Subs used: Bryan Byrne, Ed Byrne, Mick Kearney, Peadar Timmins, Luke McGrath, Adam Byrne.
Referee: Paul Williams.