Cool Kearney clinches bonus for Leinster
Leinster 37 Edinburgh 28
An Irish rugby season that was threatening to fizzle out received a shot of adrenaline last night as Leinster and Munster set up an all-Irish Magners League semi-final in the RDS next Saturday.
It very nearly didn't happen as a lively Edinburgh outfit, chasing an unlikely route to the play-offs came close to denying Leinster the victory they craved. The fact that they were unable to do so was down, in large part, to the utter dominance of the Leinster scrum in which Cian Healy was outstanding.
This should silence the doubters and there was further encouragement for Ireland forwards coach Gert Smal as Mike Ross came off the bench to help secure two scrum turnovers that proved crucial in fashioning this win.
Leinster's plans were thrown off beam when out-half Shaun Berne picked up a knock in the warm-up. It meant Isa Nacewa slotting in at 10, where he did a superb job with a 100% return from kicks producing a 17-point return, with Girvan Dempsey coming onto the left wing.
Despite spending the majority of the first 20 minutes on the back foot, it was the visitors who opened the scoring. Edinburgh number eight Ally Hogg did fantastically well to gather and the ball, moved through a succession of Scottish hands until it found full-back Jim Thompson who had too much gas for Dominic Ryan in the sprint to the line. Phil Godman added the conversion for 7-0.
More good inter-play then set Mark Robertson free down the left and the winger scooted home, benefiting from lose tackling. Godman's extras made it 14-0 with half an hour gone.
A big Leinster response was needed before half-time and the home side raised their game after Kevin McLaughlin unleashed another powerful burst to send Edinburgh reeling backwards, Healy was able to touchdown.
Nacewa popped over the conversion and another penalty to leave 14-10 at half-time. Straight after the resumption his exquisite show-and-go set him free out wide on the left allowing Shane Horgan to ride the tackle of Jim Thompson for the touchdown. Nacewa converted for a 17-14 advantage.
A penalty for Nacewa pushed his side six points clear, however, impetuous defence from Horgan allowed Edinburgh up to the Leinster line where Jamie Heaslip was binned for killing the ball.
Bolstered by their numerical advantage, Edinburgh kept coming, Rob Kearney and Eoin Reddan doing very well to deny Tim Visser before the visitors got a try under the posts, courtesy of the TMO, after George Cross appeared to have been held up. Godman converted for 21-20 before Mark Robertson crossed for his second try, cutting inside Horgan with no-one at home.
Godman's conversion made it an eight-point lead with 10 minutes to go before Nacewa tacked on another penalty for 23-28. Then came the second scrum turnover, setting up a try for Stephen Keogh, followed by a Roy of Rovers clinching score from Kearney, who blocked down Godman's drop-goal and followed up for the bonus-point securing clincher.