Leinster win to secure quarter-final berth
January 25, 2009
Fly-half Felipe Contepomi kicked the Irish province into this season's quarter-finals
© Getty Images
Leinster beat Edinburgh 12-3 in their Heineken Cup Pool 2 clash at the RDS in Dublin to progress to this season's quarter-finals.
Four first-half penalties from Felipe Contepomi proved enough for the province to qualify for the last eight but they must wait to find out their final ranking and their opponents.
The Irish side's 19-12 defeat by London Wasps last weekend set up a final-day showdown in Pool Two as Leinster and Wasps, locked together on 16 points at the top of the table, looked to better each other's result this afternoon. In the end, Wasps lost 21-15 away to Castres leaving Leinster to make it through to the tournament's last eight as pool winners, courtesy of the four points garnered against Edinburgh.
Leinster began the pool stages back in October in blistering fashion with bonus-point wins over Wasps and Edinburgh, but the wheels have threatened to come off in recent outings. Michael Cheika's side have noticeably struggled for form and indeed this was the third successive game in which they have failed to score a try, with Contepomi providing all of their points against Cardiff (seven penalties), Wasps (four penalties) and Edinburgh (four penalties).
Out of the quarter-final equation, Edinburgh travelled to Dublin with only pride and Heineken Cup ranking points to play for. But revenge was most certainly on their minds after suffering a brace of bonus-point defeats - 52-6 in the Magners League and 27-16 in Europe - to Leinster already this season.
Their coach Andy Robinson chopped and changed the team that beat Castres last weekend, with captain Mike Blair among the first-choice players being rested. A late change saw Jim Thompson included on the left wing in place of Simon Webster. With Leo Cullen out injured and Malcolm O'Kelly suspended for his stamp on Wasps captain Phil Vickery last weekend, Trevor Hogan and Devin Toner linked up in the hosts' second row and Cian Healy also stepped in for the injured CJ Van Der Linde at loosehead prop.
Leinster seemed to lack confidence in the opening stages, allowing Edinburgh to dictate possession and move the ball wide with some purpose through David Blair and Greig Laidlaw. Gradually, though, the pool leaders got a grip on the scrum, pressurising young Edinburgh prop Kyle Traynor, and carries from Rocky Elsom, Jamie Heaslip and Rob Kearney help set up place-kicks for Contepomi.
Although they struggled to reach the Edinburgh 22, Leinster were forcing errors from the Scots' defence and Contepomi potted penalties after 12 and 17 minutes to edge his side ahead. Edinburgh were beginning to fall foul of referee Chris White and, when John Houston was sin-binned as Leinster pressed in the 22, Contepomi tapped over a simple penalty for 9-0.
Chris Paterson steadied the Edinburgh ship, firing over a penalty in reply, but Leinster ended a defence-dominated first half in the ascendancy as the visitors infringed after a Brian O'Driscoll break and Contepomi mopped up with his fourth penalty. Nine points ahead at the break, a workmanlike Leinster warded off some early pressure from Edinburgh in the second half before Contepomi botched a two-man overlap by flinging a forward pass to Luke Fitzgerald.
With the rain drifting down and the wind behind them, Cheika's charges pounded away at Edinburgh's defensive line but the visitors showed great organisation and heart as, despite being out of the tournament, they played right until the final whistle. The downpour made handling difficult and limited any chance of Leinster getting their running game going. They pinned Edinburgh in their own half for large stretches of the half and, although the Scots never looked like adding to their tally, events in France might have left Leinster scrambling at the finish.
Leinster coach Michael Cheika was impressed with his side's performance, commenting, "I don't think anyone is under any illusions. We definitely dominated. We had all the possession. We defended pretty well when they did have it but we couldn't deliver the knockout blow. Obviously our tactics changed when we knew what was happening in the (Wasps) game as well.
"We were in their territory for so long and we just couldn't manage to get over. Maybe we were a little too focused on getting over instead of playing what we organise ourselves to play when we get in those areas of the field. We had a plan, but it became very evident after a certain period that we weren't getting four tries, once the rain came down. We adjusted to a different approach but there is no approach in football that says don't score tries. We are frustrated we didn't score more but we're very happy we are in the quarter-final."
His words were echoed by man-of-the-match Kearney, "It's hugely frustrating and for no one more so then the back line. What is encouraging is we are making the opportunities, we are making line breaks, we are just lacking that clinical component to our game and if we can improve that final pass every time then we will start to see a few more tries coming. We're disappointed we haven't played to our potential once more, not scoring a try, but at the same time we have qualified and that is what we came here to do today, to get the win and get out of the group."
Edinburgh coach Andy Robinson made no excuses for his side slipping to a defeat in what was a 'dead rubber' encounter for them - they have finished third in the pool table. "When you look at rugby, it's about getting a foothold in the game and I guess we had a couple of chances early on and we didn't take those chances," he said. "Overall I am really pleased with the way the players fronted up. It was very courageous. We saw some young players like Kyle Traynor coming in and Greig Laidlaw playing at scrum-half. I think those two guys put their hands up for the squad and it's looking good for Edinburgh in the future."
Leinster: Kearney, Horgan, O'Driscoll, Contepomi, Fitzgerald, Nacewa, Whitaker, Healy, Jackman, Wright, Hogan, Toner, Elsom, Jennings, Heaslip.
Replacements: D'Arcy for Horgan (51), le Roux for Healy (72). Not Used: Fogarty, S Keogh, O'Brien, Keane, Dempsey.
Edinburgh: Paterson, A Turnbull, Houston, De Luca, Thompson, D Blair, Laidlaw, Traynor, Kelly, G Cross, C Hamilton, Gissing, Newlands, S Cross, Hogg.
Replacements: Lawrie for Kelly (72), Kerr for G Cross (53), MacDonald for Newlands (59). Not Used: J Hamilton, Meyer, Reid, Cairns.
Man of the Match: Rob Kearney (Leinster)
Referee: C White (RFU)