There was heartbreak for the Ospreys at Liberty Stadium on Saturday afternoon as a 79th minute drop goal from Leinster’s Ross Byrne secured victory for the PRO12 leaders.
An absorbing contest that saw the lead change hands five times almost had one final twist in over time, but Dan Biggar couldn’t find the target with a 40m penalty that would have snatched a crucial win for the Ospreys.
Looking to get some points on the board early on, Biggar went for the posts from some 45m out after Devin Toner was penalised at the ruck in the third minute, only to see his kick come back off the right hand post.
Leinster cleared to touch but they were back behind their line inside a minute as the hosts struck with purpose and intent to take the lead. Good lineout ball allowed them to move the ball the width of the field, Sam Davies going over in the corner.
Biggar’s radar clearly wasn’t tuned in as, again, the angle proved too much for him, the try going unconverted.
The Ospreys tails were up and they were looking to keep the pressure on Leinster and after Toner was again the guilty party, this time a no arms tackle, Biggar slotted over a simple three pointer from in front of the posts.
After the early Ospreys dominance in the opening quarter, Leinster began to win possession and territory of their own. Moments after a 50m carry upfield from their skipper, Isa Nacewa, it was the unlikely figure of hooker, Sean Cronin, cutting in from the right wing, stepping Biggar and leaving him behind to score under the posts. Nacewa then added the extras to bring his side back to within a point.
As half-time approached it was Leinster in the ascendancy and, after Dan Baker found himself isolated carrying off the back of a scrum in the Ospreys 22, Nacewa put over a simple kick to nudge Leinster head by two.
There was still time for the Ospreys to come back at Leinster, Zane Kirchner penalised for not releasing, and Biggar made no mistake from the left to ensure the home team held the narrowest of half-time leads.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 11 LEINSTER 10
It was Leinster who got the first points of the second half, Dan Leavy crashing over from close range after Cronin had charged through the Ospreys defence, collecting the ball at full steam after a Lloyd Ashley high tackle on Nacewa had allowed the visitors to go the corner.
Nacewa converted and Leinster led by six.
The game seemed to be drifting away from the Ospreys, but with Biggar in the bloodbin, a penalty close to halfway for not rolling away allowed the Ospreys to strike back.
Sam Davies put the ball in the corner, Tipuric secured clean ball and, although the maul was quickly stopped by Leinster, Webb and then Ma’afu Fia were stopped on the line, Tipuric was able to burrow over for the score.
Davies’ conversion meant that the Ospreys were back in front by a single point with 18 minutes remaining.
Nacewa then had a chance to snatch the lead back for Leinster, a long-range penalty from a central position, but his kick was always going to the left of the posts.
It was nip and tuck going into closing minutes but, with just 75 seconds left on the clock, Leinster were able to work field position that allowed Byrne to drop a goal that put them two clear.
By the time they restarted there was just 30 seconds left but, having secured possession at the restart, the Ospreys patiently went through the phases, winning a penalty on the 10m line with time up, Byrne going high on Evans.
Biggar lined up the kick and sent it goalwards but it was always drifting just wide, leaving the Liberty Stadium crowd silent as the Leinster players celebrated a win that left their opponents with just a losing bonus point.