The Ospreys had to settle for a losing bonus point at the RDS Arena on Saturday evening despite a huge effort from a side that went into battle missing nineteen players.
The odds were stacked against the region with seven players absent with Wales for their memorable win over South Africa at the Millennium Stadium and another 12 unavailable due to injury but they showed tremendous character and spirit to push Leinster all the way and almost snatch a shock victory.
The Irish side had won every single game played at the RDS since the Ospreys shared the spoils in September 2013 in a 29-29 draw, and at times today it seemed as though the region would do the trick in Dublin again.
Sam Davies kicked all the Ospreys points as he impressed with both boot and ball in hand, but was just unable to guide the team home despite being level at the 70 minute mark as Leinster’s experience eventually told.
The Ospreys made a positive start to the game and six minutes in good lineout ball from Tyler Ardron put them on the front foot, a Leinster offside allowing Davies to slot over the first points of the evening.
Leinster were handed a chance to hit straight back following the TMO’s intervention, ruling a high tackle by Aisea Natoga to allow Ian Madigan to level.
Madigan then nudged the home team ahead in the 17th minute after Marc Thomas was penalised for not supporting his body weight at the ruck.
The hosts were starting to take a tight grip on the game as it moved into the second quarter and after awarding another penalty against the Ospreys, referee Marius Mitrea issued a team warning to skipper Lloyd Peers before Madigan slotted over his third successful kick.
After being awarded a penalty for a high tackle by Madigan on Hanno Dirksen, quick ball from the setpiece allowed the Ospreys to threaten for the first time. A good run through the middle by Dirksen almost saw the South African jinking his way to the line only for a last gasp tackle to bring him down 10m out.
An extensive injury list was lengthened when Dan Baker left the field just short of the half hour mark, Ieuan Jones entering the fray, but the Ospreys were starting to find some rhythm to their game and an offside call against Jimmy Gopperth following a spell of concerted Ospreys pressure allowed Davies to cut the deficit to three with half hour played.
A good passing move across the width of the field from a lineout on the left gave the Ospreys some go forward again, and when the Irish side were guilty of killing the ball Davies was again on target to ensure his team went in level at the break.
HALF-TIME: LEINSTER 9 OSPREYS 9
The Ospreys thought they’d made the perfect start to the second period when Natoga raced through a hole in the Leinster defence from a set-piece move at a lineout on the Irish team’s 10m line just a minute after the restart.
Unfortunately though play was brought back for a scrum, after the TMO was asked to rule on what turned out to be a clear forward pass from Martin Roberts, and the obvious decision was no try.
Leinster then looked set to score after Jack Conan shrugged off the challenge of Dirksen on the right. Dave Kearney carried powerfully, a dogged effort from Martin Roberts eventually bringing down the winger just a metre or two short when the try looked inevitable, and Sam Lewis got down well to win turnover ball underneath his own posts.
A penalty against Ardron for a mistimed tackle that saw him taking out the man without the ball then allowed Gopperth a simple kick to put the home team back in front.
The Ospreys responded well, and some great work from Andrew Bishop and Jones almost resulted in the on-loan back rower freeing Lewis for a run to the line. Davies did bring the Ospreys level again on the hour though with his fourth successful penalty kick of the match.
It was all-square going into the final 10 minutes and although Leinster were now on top, they weren’t creating any try scoring opportunities.
The visitors were grateful to the impressive Davies though, who did a great job of getting back to make a crucial tackle on Dominic Ryan to halt a Leinster counter-attack from their own 22.
With under eight minutes on the clock Gopperth nudged the hosts back in front after a side entry to the ruck by Cai Griffiths, taking the score to 15-12.
Leinster took away any chances of a draw after winning a scrum penalty in front of the Ospreys posts with two minutes left, Gopperth securing the win despite a huge effort from a young Ospreys team.