The Ospreys’ winning run in the PRO12 came to an end at the Liberty Stadium on Friday night as Leinster claimed their first win in Swansea since 2009.
On a frustrating evening, the hosts failed to cross the line while Leinster were far more clinical as they ran in three tries on their way to a win that sees them move to the top of the table.
With15 minutes to go the home team trailed by a solitary point, but the visitors took advantage of lax defence to grab a late brace to deny the Ospreys even a losing bonus point. It was a particularly disappointing end to a contest that had seen the men in black enjoy the lion’s share of territory and possession, without truly threatening their opponents line.
In typical Swansea fashion the heavens opened at kick-off time, but the wet weather didn’t prevent a lively opening period that saw Leinster go through a series of phases pounding the Ospreys 22 without breaching the defensive line and the hosts then going close at the other end, Jeff Hassler trying to barge his way through a white wall.
A Leinster offence on the floor then gave the Ospreys a penalty close to the line from where they went to the corner. A series of picks and go’s took the home team close to the Leinster line again, Sam Underhill stopped just short, before Scott Baldwin lost possession under the posts, allowing the visitors to clear at the resulting scrum.
The first points of the night went to the home team after 15 minutes, Dan Biggar opting to take three with a snap drop goal after another spell of home pressure had seen the Ospreys fail to break down the Leinster defence.
Leinster struck back with venom and within three minutes they were ahead having grabbed the opening try of the match.
It was frustratingly simple, Johnny Sexton taking the ball at the back of a maul and spotting a huge gap on the opposite side of the pitch, Dave Kearney collecting the cross-kick in acres of space and forcing his way over the line despite Jeff Hassler’s efforts. Sexton added the extras and the scoreboard read 3-7.
Biggar and Sexton then exchanged three pointers within the space of three minutes just ahead of the half hour, before a huge Ospreys scrum close to halfway was rewarded with a penalty allowing Biggar a kick at goal from 45m with a minute until the break.
Although he had the length, it drifted agonisingly wide at the last moment, so the Ospreys headed down the tunnel trailing by four points.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 6 LEINSTER 10
The Ospreys started the second half as they’d ended the first, on the offensive, but they were finding themselves frustrated time and again as a combination of crucial decisions going against them and wrong choices while pressing hard inside the Leinster 22 prevented them adding to their six points.
However, with 50 minutes on the clock the Ospreys were given another opportunity to go for goal after a scrum penalty. Again, unfortunately, Biggar failed to find the target, this time from 10m further upfield.
With the home team dominating at this stage it was crucial that they got some points on the board and it was third time lucky 14 minutes into the second half, Biggar bringing the Ospreys back to within a point after Leinster interference on the floor.
It was on the proverbial knife-edge with chances at a premium for either side as the Ospreys emptied their bench either side of the hour with Nicky Smith, Ma’afu Fia, Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric entering the action.
However, the crucial next score went Leinster’s way and again, it looked simple as Ben Te’o stepped through a gaping hole in the defence as the ball was moved through the hands, the centre carrying strongly before offloading to Noel Reid who finished off the move in the corner. Sexton watched his conversion attempt come back off the far post, but Leinster led by six.
The Ospreys tried in vain to find a winning score but they were killed off with just minutes to go as Dave Kearney ran a great line to get to the line off a scrum, the TMO confirming the score despite Tom Habberfield’s best efforts to hold him up. Sexton converted to seal the win.