It was mission accomplished for Leinster as they ran eight tries past Edinburgh at the RDS to secure a home semi-final in the RaboDirect PRO12…Joe Schmidt post-match reaction…
The runaway league leaders are guaranteed to finish in the top two now following their 16th win of the campaign, which was rubberstamped by five second half tries.
Shane Jennings’ fortuitous early try was cancelled out by Nick De Luca’s 11th-minute effort, before scores from Fergus McFadden and Sean Cronin saw Leinster break into an 18-7 interval lead.
Fionn Carr’s 43rd-minute try sealed the bonus point but Edinburgh leaked four more touchdowns as this clash of the Heineken Cup semi-finalists turned into a romp.
Speaking afterwards, Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt said: “It’s fantastic to run up such a score and it does gives us a buffer (at the top of the table).
“We scored some super tries and it’s fantastic for the players that were out there. The crowd were great too, and I think they really enjoyed it.
“That performance will mean some Panadols for the coaches because some guys put in really big performances out there, and it’s going to be tough to make some decisions for Ulster next week and obviously Clermont the week after that.”
Edinburgh bore a closer resemblance to their European line-up, making five changes to the side that shocked Toulouse last weekend.
Leinster, on the other hand, retained only Isa Nacewa, Gordon D’Arcy and stand-in captain Jamie Heaslip from their quarter-final win over Cardiff.
The game burst into life with a number of players looking to press their claims for more regular game-time, and the sight of Devin Toner galloping into the Edinburgh 22 delighted the home support.
McFadden watched a penalty attempt flick away off the left hand post, but covering winger Lee Jones failed to control the difficult bouncing ball and Jennings swept in to ground it for the opening try.
McFadden failed to add the conversion and Edinburgh initiated an immediate response, piling through the middle before Laidlaw’s pass sent De Luca over for a well-worked try.
The right-sided conversion was landed by Laidlaw to move the Scots 7-5 ahead, but their lead was a brief one as Leinster hit back with a stunning second touchdown.
Countering from deep, Nacewa sent David Kearney surging down the right wing and his inside pass was perfectly timed for McFadden to gather and complete a 40-metre dash to the corner.
Yet the centre’s place-kicking woes continued with a missed conversion and a penalty attempt that went wide at the midpoint of the half.
Edinburgh defended well until Kyle Traynor infringed at a 29th minute scrum and McFadden was back on target from the resulting kick, splitting the posts from the left.
Laidlaw missed a long range effort and the hosts, retaining possession well, added a third unconverted try when hooker Cronin charged onto Isaac Boss’ pass to score from close range.
Into the second half, Edinburgh conceded an early try as Ian Madigan’s clever kick to the left was gobbled up by Carr and the conversion was supplied by Nacewa.
A brace of penalties from Laidlaw kept Michael Bradley’s men in touch at 25-13 down, however the hosts really bossed the final quarter.
A Nacewa penalty put 15 points between the sides and then the full-back burst onto a Boss pass to grab try number five which he converted himself.
A powerful lineout maul saw replacement Leo Auva’a crash over for the sixth, and a scintillating length of the field break, sparked by man-of-the-match Madigan and carried on by the speedy Noel Reid, put another reserve, Brendan Macken, over in the same right corner.
The icing on the cake for Joe Schmidt’s charges was a last-minute try for giant lock Toner, who darted through a gap and muscled over past the final two defenders.
LEINSTER SCORERS: S. Jennings (1 try), F. McFadden (1 try and 1 penalty), S. Cronin (1 try), F. Carr (1 try), I. Nacewa (1 try, 2 conversions and 1 penalty), L. Auva’a (1 try), B. Macken (1 try), D. Toner (1 try), I. Madigan (2 conversions)
EDINBURGH SCORERS: N. De Luca (1 try), G. Laidlaw (1 conversion and 2 penalties)
15: Isa Nacewa (Noel Reid, 66)
14: David Kearney
13: Fergus McFadden (Brendan Macken, 69)
12: Gordon D’Arcy (Eoin Reddan, 72)
11: Fionn Carr
10: Ian Madigan
9: Isaac Boss
1: Heinke van der Merwe (Jack McGrath, 66)
2: Sean Cronin (Richardt Strauss, 66)
3: Nathan White (Martin Moore, 72)
4: Damian Browne (Kevin McLaughlin, 61)
5: Devin Toner
6: Rhys Ruddock
7: Shane Jennings
8: Jamie Heaslip CAPTAIN (Leo Auva’a, 66)
EDINBURGH: T Brown; L Jones, N De Luca, M Scott, T Visser; G Laidlaw CAPTAIN, C Leck; K Traynor, R Ford, G Cross, E Lozada, S Cox, S McInally, R Grant, N Talei.
REPLACEMENTS: A Kelly, R Hislop, J Gilding, G Gilchrist, D Denton, R Rennie, P Godman, J Thompson.
REFEREE: Peter Fitzgibbon (IRFU) , ASSISTANT REFEREES: David Wilkinson, Simon McDowell (both IRFU), 4th OFFICIAL: Gary Glennon (Leinster Rugby Referees), 5th OFFICIAL: Robbie O’Flynn (Leinster Rugby Referees), TMO: Jude Quinn (IRFU)