The Ospreys secured a losing bonus point at the RDS Showground but will feel it was an opportunity lost after they failed to build on a strong first half showing that saw them take a narrow lead in at the break.
Justin Tipuric marked his first game as captain with a try and Dan Biggar kicked five points, but they failed to score a point in the second half as Biggar missed a series of kicks and the lineout misfired badly after they had enjoyed the better of the first half, allowing Jonathan Sexton to kick his team to victory with five penalties.
The Ospreys got off to the perfect start, Biggar slotting over an early penalty after Leinster were penalised for pulling down the maul to give his side a 3-0 lead.
It was a short-lived lead however, Leinster gaining a penalty from the restart after Ryan Jones entered a ruck from the side that allowed Sexton to level things in the fifth minute.
Nikki Walker showed good hands to collect a Biggar pass off his bootlaces in Ospreys territory before kicking ahead to chase, but Sexton was able to get back to safely ground the ball before the big Scottish wing got there.
Fergus McFadden was only inches away from a try as he chased an intelligent kick to the corner from Luke Fitzgerald that just bounced into touch before he could get there. The Ospreys lost the resulting lineout, allowing Leinster to keep the pressure on, and only a last ditch tackle from Biggar halted Devin Toner in the shadow of the posts. Leinster looked to recycle, and both Sexton and O’Driscoll went for the line, before Nigel Owens awarded them a penalty, which Sexton duly slotted over to give his side the lead 11 minutes in.
A quickly taken free-kick after Leinster offended in the scrum saw Rhys Webb take the Ospreys deep into opposition territory. He knocked on in the tackle, but another strong Ospreys scrum put Leinster under pressure. Eoin Reddan’s rushed clearance was charged down by Webb and as the ball spun up in the air and across the line Ian Evans was able to flick the ball backwards. Skipper for the night Tipuric was following up and he was first to the loose ball ahead of Brian O’Driscoll, diving on it to ground, the TMO confirming the try. Biggar added the extras to take the score to 10-6 to the visitors in the 16th minute.
Fussell then had to be bundled over into touch near the corner flag as he looked to find a gap in the Leinster defence. With the wind and rain whipping around the pitch, the hosts made a mess of their defensive lineout, conceding a scrum five for carrying the ball back over the line. However, a strong Leinster scrum saw Craig Mitchell penalised, allowing Sexton to clear.
Ian Evans was securing quality ball at the lineout, and it was from another setpiece that the Ospreys should have extended their lead shortly before the half hour mark, Cian Healy being pinged for not rolling away as they looked to inch their forward. Unfortunately, just 10 metres out, Biggar’s penalty kick struck the underside of the bar after the ball had slipped off the tee as he approached, and Leinster cleared.
The Ospreys had enjoyed the upper hand in the territory and possession stakes, but Barry Davies had to be strong to halt Shane Horgan’s progress on halfway as he charged up the right flank after quick ball from a scrum deep inside the Leinster half.
As the clock approached 40, Leinster were beginning to exert more pressure and the Ospreys were indebted to Biggar for a great turnover in the Ospreys 22 after Fussell had managed to bring down Horgan. Eventually Leinster were able to get a reward for their efforts, the Ospreys penalised for not rolling away, and Sexton was able to end the half positively, slotting it between the sticks.
HALF-TIME: LEINSTER 9 OSPREYS 10
Excellent work in the loose by Ryan Jones secured the Ospreys an early penalty, and Biggar’s long-range effort appeared to be heading between the posts, only to strike the left hand upright.
At the other end, a Leinster penalty for coming in from the side led to Mr Owens issuing a formal warning to the Ospreys, before Sexton’s long range kick put the home side back in front.
Biggar had the opportunity to strike back immediately with a penalty from a central position on the 10m line, but again he was unsuccessful.
His opposite number Sexton was enjoying the better of the kicking battle, but with 55 minutes gone he spurned the opportunity to extend Leinster’s lead, his kick drifting to the right of the posts after the Ospreys had been penalised at the scrum. He was handed another opportunity just a minute later though, after Webb threw the ball away to prevent a quick throw-in, and he made no mistake from close to the touchline.
The Ospreys lineout efficiency of the first half had fallen away, Huw Bennett being penalised on a number of occasions for delaying the throw or not throwing straight, and it was preventing the visitors from being able to build up any momentum as Leinster began to tighten their grip on the game.
Another long range Biggar penalty failed to find the target, but he was handed another chance immediately as Leinster were pinged for not being behind the kicker. However, he pulled it across the face of the posts and wide to the right to leave the Ospreys trailing by five with 15 minutes to go.
Tipuric had enjoyed an outstanding game, and he read the situation well to charge down a Sexton drop goal attempt as he looked to wipe out the Ospreys’ losing bonus point.
The game was becoming increasingly scrappy, and the Ospreys were struggling to make any real headway as they looked to work themselves into a position from where they could possibly save the game.
There was a late, late opportunity for the visitors, awarded a scrum on the 22, and they patiently worked through 10 phases, looking for a gap as the clock passed 80 minutes, but the Leinster defence held firm, eventually winning a penalty for holding on, allowing them to clear to touch to bring the game to an end.