Leinster Rugby lost for only the third time in this season’s Guinness PRO14 as Edinburgh reeled off four tries to beat the Conference B winners 28-11 at BT Murrayfield.

Already assured of a home semi-final, Leinster welcomed Dan Leavy, Luke McGrath, Joe Tomane and Nick McCarthy back from injury but the Scots scored at crucial stages. Their scrum forced a penalty try for a 14-11 half-time lead and hooker Ross Ford barged over in the 45th minute after a tight call at the breakdown saw Leavy sin-binned.

Another ground-gaining series of pick and drives led to Fijian number 8 Bill Mata bagging the bonus point on the hour mark. Leo Cullen’s much-changed side were unable to add to Sean Cronin’s initial try and two Ciaran Frawley penalties, the latter starting at out-half in the absence of Ross Byrne (foot).

While disappointed to resume their PRO14 campaign with an away defeat, Cullen and his fellow coaches did give some valuable game-time to the likes of scrum half McGrath – 62 minutes in all – and flanker Leavy, while Cronin played the first 40 minutes. Now all roads lead to the Aviva Stadium for next Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final against Ulster.

There were 11 personnel changes from the team that defeated the Toyota Cheetahs 19-7, the last of them a late one as Byrne’s injury saw Skerries youngster Frawley switch from full-back to out-half. Fellow Academy back Jimmy O’Brien donned the number 15 jersey for the first time, having started at outside against the Dragons in December.

Cullen’s charges were the early aggressors, their bright almost yielding a try as Mick Kearney was held up by WP Nel. A scrum penalty gave Frawley his first shot at the posts and he duly gave Leinster a sixth minute lead. Edinburgh had a penalty miss from Jaco van der Walt before lock Fraser McKenzie’s yellow card for a dangerous tackle which upended Noel Reid at a ruck.

A dominant scrum led to a 14th-minute lineout opportunity near the right corner, and Josh Murphy’s fine take set the the maul in motion for Cronin to burst over for his 12th try of the season. Frawley was unable to convert and the powerful Edinburgh pack gradually responded with some forward pressure of their own.

A lineout drive got them into position before they carried closer to the posts and tighthead Nel successfully burrowed over in the 29th minute despite the best efforts of Ed Byrne. The simple conversion from van der Walt was cancelled out by a Frawley three-pointer, which came on the back of a nicely-balanced break from Jimmy O’Brien.

However, Edinburgh’s greater experience up front – flanker John Barclay was in man-of-the-match form – told when they forced an under-pressure Leinster to collapse a scrum for the second time and referee Ben Whitehouse signalled for a penalty try just before the interval. Into the second half, Leavy then paid the price for accumulated penalties in the 22 with a case of ‘no clear release’ according to Whitehouse.

Just as Leinster had done earlier, Richard Cockerill’s side made their numerical advantage count as Ford bashed his way over down the short side of a lineout maul with South African van der Walt nailing a terrific touchline conversion for 21-11. By the time McCarthy made his return early in the final quarter, Edinburgh were effectively out of reach thanks to more dogged phase-building from the forwards and Mata’s strong finish.

With young replacements Gavin Mullin and Jack Dunne joining the fray, Leinster missed out on a late consolation try and head coach Cullen said afterwards that despite the result it was ‘a good experience for a lot of our guys’ and especially those players coming back from injury.

“We had a lot of young guys come into the group,” he said. “It was tough, Edinburgh played quite a smart tactical game. I thought we had some chances in the game that we didn’t quite execute on. Edinburgh put a lot of squeeze on us, we gave away quite a number of penalties for various different offences which put us under a lot of pressure.

“We’re disappointed with the way we performed. There’s lots of parts of the game that we can look to get better at for the coming weeks. There were some pleasing aspects – I thought we started the game very well, we showed really good attacking intent right from the off and got into that 8-0 lead.

“Edinburgh hit back, got over eventually after a bit of sustained pressure on our try-line. There was a big moment just on half-time with the penalty try, there’s a sequence of events which leads to that situation. So again we’ll look back and review all the events, but it’s a big moment for our guys – it just knocks their confidence at the start of the second half – and then Edinburgh score again early in the second half, and then we’ve a man in the bin as well.

“It was just that period either side of half-time which put us under a lot of pressure. I thought we stuck in there well, guys fought and defended bravely, but the pressure told in the end and I thought edinburgh were very, very patient in terms of staying down at our end of the field and eventually getting over. We were there at the end, bashing away at their try-line, but again Edinburgh stuck to their task very well.”