Ospreys 9 Leinster 19
A disappointing evening at the Liberty Stadium saw the Ospreys finish empty handed after Jimmy Gopperth’s late penalty denied them even the consolation of a losing bonus point.
Leinster scored the only try of the game, through Sean O’Brien in the first half, and the boot of Gopperth guided the visitors home safely as the Ospreys struggled to breakdown the Irish side’s defence.
It was the Ospreys that drew first blood, Dan Biggar successful with a penalty from close to halfway inside 150 seconds after great work at the breakdown from Ryan and Adam Jones was rewarded with the first penalty of the evening.
Another Ryan Jones turnover, from a big hit in midfield, put his team on the front foot again five minutes later, namesake Duncan carrying well before Tito Tebaldi, Ashley Beck and Ben John combined to take the Ospreys deep into Leinster territory. When they were eventually halted, play was brought back to the 22 for offside, and Biggar put over a simple kick to double the lead.
The visitors then enjoyed their first spell of prolonged possession, moving the ball across field from a lineout on the left, and then back again. Although they didn’t look like finding their way through through a black wall they did earn themselves a penalty for offside against Ryan Jones, Gopperth getting the scoreboard moving on the Leinster side after quarter of an hour.
With a bumper Liberty Stadium crowd present, it was the home team that looked to be slowly gaining control of a physical, intense battle between two old rivals as it moved into the second quarter.
Some lovely rugby saw the Ospreys work the ball wide to the right where Richard Hibbard was held up just a couple of metres short of the Leinster line, only for a penalty to go the way of the hosts for tackler not releasing. The Ospreys opted to go for a scrum five metres out instead of taking the points, a decision they were to rue when, following a titanic struggle between the packs, the penalty when Leinster’s way.
To make things worse, within minutes the Ospreys were back under their own posts after Leinster grabbed a try through O’Brien. There seemed little threat when Andrew Bishop made a break over halfway, only for the centre to get stripped in the tackle by Jamie Heaslip, who was able to carry back into Ospreys territory. Leinster kept the ball alive well, Sean Cronin holding off two tackles before finally freeing O’Brien out on the left for the score despite Tebaldi's best efforts. Gopperth’s conversion took the score to 6-10 as the 30-minute mark approached.
The Leinster fly half then took his team seven clear with a huge kick from a couple of metres inside his own half.
It was Leinster who were now looking the better side, the Ospreys failing to find the rhythm they had shown in the early exchanges, but there was no change to the scoreboard before the teams went in at the break.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 6 LEINSTER 13
The Ospreys began the second half brightly and were rewarded for their positive intent with an early penalty, Biggar making no mistake with his third successful kick of the night.
A rush of blood to the head proved costly after the Ospreys were awarded a penalty close to the touchline just inside the Leinster half, Tebaldi taking a quick tap and go only to find himself isolated, allowing Leinster to steal. His opposite number Isaac Boss lost the race for his own kick through, Ryan Jones getting back to secure the ball, but although the Ospreys were able to clear an offence at the next lineout saw Gopperth punishing them with a three-pointer to restore the seven point advantage.
It was starting to get bogged down in midfield as the clock ticked through the hour, both teams struggling to break down their opponents but Leinster holding that crucial lead.
The Ospreys eventually managed to break the stranglehold with a classic counterattack, launched from a turnover close to the 22 on the left, that saw it swung right where Justin Tipuric was able to race over halfway before releasing Jeff Hassler, on for Ben John, who was eventually put in touch 15m out. by Gopperth.
The sound levels rose as fans from both sides of the Irish sea urged their teams on, but neither team was able to overcome strong defence, the Ospreys enjoying considerable possession without looking like finding a way through as a combination of strong defence and loose play prevented them building any real momentum.
Then, at the death, they were denied even a losing bonus point as Gopperth’s successful penalty took his team 10 clear to leave the hosts empty handed.