Richard Cockerill stays upbeat despite Edinburgh hitting bottom spot
Richard Cockerill refused to be too downhearted after 14-man Edinburgh slipped to the bottom of Conference B in Guinness Pro14, going down 31-7 to reigning champions Leinster.
Edinburgh pushed their hosts for long periods of the match at the RDS and scored a try to make it 12-7 via Magnus Bradbury early in the second half, but Leinster’s attacking flair and Pierre Schoeman’s red card made it an uphill task for the visitors.
Head coach Cockerill said: “It was a bloody tough game for us. I thought they played very well, but they had to perform to get past us. I’m happy with performance to a degree. We made some errors, but they are a great side and will punish you.
“I thought we battled hard and we were in the fight, but they deserved to win. The score was maybe a bit top heavy in the end, but we’ve got to learn from these nights. The only way to improve is to play against the best teams, and Leinster are certainly one of the best teams.
“Leinster know they’ve been in a contest, don’t they? We didn’t roll over easily.
“We had opportunities. We had an advantage and kicked it away. Then we ended up dropping the ball on a number of times as well. Those are the key parts and you have to produce against the best teams.
“We started the second-half well and we had opportunities to strike, but the game just got away us from us. If you’re going to win in Dublin, you have to be really accurate. We battled hard and we’re not a soft touch anymore, but we’ve got keep developing.”
Leinster wingers Fergus McFadden and James Lowe both touched down as Leo Cullen’s men led 12-0 following a very physical first half, the Irish province absorbing a long period of Edinburgh pressure in between those tries.
Bradbury’s lone seven-pointer for the Scottish club was followed by scores from Jordan Larmour and Jonathan Sexton, the latter securing the bonus point on his 150th Leinster appearance.
Edinburgh’s woes were compounded by replacement prop Schoeman’s red card for “leading with the elbow” into a 70th-minute tackle from Dan Leavy, and Garry Ringrose’s late breakaway try wrapped up the scoring.
Luke McGrath went close from a lineout maul as Edinburgh did well to soak up early pressure, but they were caught out by Devin Toner’s charge-down of Sean Kennedy’s box-kick in the 15th minute.
Having scooped up possession, Toner was chopped down short of the line before McFadden wriggled over from the ruck and captain Sexton converted.
The Edinburgh pack enjoyed a prolonged purple patch, hammering away at the Leinster line off three successive penalties, yet the hosts held out in determined fashion – Josh van der Flier leading the tackle count – and the Scots also failed to use their numbers out wide.
Cian Healy was savouring what was a bruising battle, pirouetting out of tackles as Leinster roared back downfield minus James Ryan because of a head injury assessment.
Approaching half-time, a contentious lineout was reversed in Leinster’s favour and they took full advantage, a free-flowing loop move ending with Larmour’s pass putting Lowe over in the right corner.
Cockerill’s half-time words seemed to work a treat as Duhan van der Merwe’s brilliant break paved the way for No.8 Bradbury to reach over from close range. Jaco van der Walt converted to close the gap to five points before Leinster found another gear.
What appeared to be a second try for Lowe, which saw him beat scrum-half Kennedy’s attempted tackle, was ruled out for a forward pass from Van der Flier, but the newly-introduced Sean Cronin and Tadhg Furlong combined with Healy to demolish the Edinburgh scrum.
Larmour danced over in the next phase, profiting from Sexton and Robbie Henshaw’s clever build-up play.
Sexton added the extras and after Lowe was held up, Leinster pressed again for the fourth try and Sexton, using a smart dummy, slipped through to cross the whitewash and convert in his final act.
Referee Dan Jones reached for his red card after deliberating the Schoeman incident with TMO Simon McDowell, and Edinburgh leaked a fifth try two minutes from the end, Ringrose darting clear from halfway after McFadden’s initial break from a turnover.