Leinster 36 Ospreys 3
The Ospreys experienced a chastening evening in Dublin, suffering a heavy defeat after playing an hour a man short following a red card for Ian Evans.
It was a brave performance in the face of adversity, but after also losing Ben John, Ryan Jones and Richard Hibbard to injury by half-time, and then replacement hooker Scott Baldwin through concussion within minutes of the restart, it proved a tough night for the region.
There was an early setback for the visitors, losing young centre John to injury inside six minutes, Matthew Morgan replacing him in midfield.
Leinster drew first blood with a straightforward penalty in front of the posts from Jimmy Gopperth after the first scrum of the night went dow.
The Ospreys, who had shown plenty of positive intent in the opening exchanges, were able to hit straight back however, Dan Biggar successful from 45m out with the help of the crossbar after Shane Jennings was penalised for holding on.
As the game reached the end of the first quarter, there was a lengthy delay as the contest was paused as the referee went to the TMO to review an incident of foul play.
Monsieur Poite studied the RDS big screen intently as replay after replay was shown, before Ian Evans was called across and shown a red card for apparent use of the boot. The dismissal meant the Ospreys would play an hour a man short.
Ryan Jones, returning to the starting XV after a short lay-off with a calf injury, was next to depart the action, limping off gingerly as the half-hour mark clocked up. Lloyd Peers took his place in the seven-man pack.
The hosts retook the lead on 34 minutes, an unstoppable rolling maul from a lineout on the Ospreys 22 putting the visitors defence under huge pressure. With a penalty advantage in Leinster’s favour, the boys in blue continued rumbling towards the line and what looked an inevitable try only to be halted illegally, resulting in a penalty try.
Gopperth added the simple extras, and just a minute later, the fly-half thought he had added five more points only for the score to be ruled out by the TMO after he failed to ground it.
That he didn’t score was down to some fantastic last ditch defending under the posts by Rhys Webb and Sam Davies, after an eye-catching break from the unlikely shape of tighthead Martin Moore.
Although the Ospreys were able to clear to touch from the resulting scrum five, they were soon back underneath the sticks after a series of close range pick and drives on the line eventually created space for Cian Healy to go over from a metre out. Gopperth’s conversion took the home team 14 points clear at the break.
HALF-TIME: LEINSTER 17 OSPREYS 3
A man short and trailing by two converted tries, the Ospreys were facing an uphill battle simply to stay in the realms of respectability but they started the second half showing plenty of character and spirit.
Having lost two players to injury in the first period, Richard Hibbard failed to reappear after the break, Scott Baldwin entering the fray. However, the replacement hooker lasted just nine minutes before he too was forced off following a lengthy spell of treatment.
That left the Ospreys without a hooker, and while a decision was made on who to send on in his place, the game went on with just 13 white shirts on the field and passive scrums.
A third Leinster try was ruled by the TMO following a great run by Brian O’Driscoll at the heart of the Ospreys try, a clear knock-on from Shane Jennings as he gathered the ball a metre or so out resulting in a ‘no try’ call.
The Ospreys were restored to 14 when loose head prop Marc Thomas took to the field in place of Baldwin in the 52nd minute, leaving the visitors with three props in the front row.
Showing tremendous resilience in adversity, the visitors were not just hanging in there as the third quarter drew to a close, they were taking the game to their opponents, enjoying a spell of pressure in the Leinster 22 before eventually being penalised at the breakdown.
A Leinster penalty at a scrum close to halfway allowed Gopperth to put his team in the corner as they looked to turn the screw, and the pressure eventually told as the home pack drove forward at a scrum on the left hand side. As the set-piece went down on the line, the ref had no hesitation in running under the posts to signal a second Leinster penalty try. Gopperth added the extras to take the score to 24-3 on 62 minutes.
Shortly after, another Leinster scrum had the Ospreys retreating, Jamie Heaslip picking up at the base before Eoin Reddan went for the line, only to knock on in the tackle as he stretched to ground it between the sticks.
As the game moved into the final 10 minutes it was proving to be one-way traffic as the blue shirts streamed forward at every opportunity, looking to stretch the white defensive wall to breaking point.
The damn finally burst in the final 10 minutes, the pressure eventually leading to another two scores for the home team, Jordi Murphy forcing his way over from close range to secure a bonus point, Gopperth adding the conversion. The evening was rounded off by Isaac Boss scoring a fifth try, cantering home unchallenged for a score that went unconverted.