The Ospreys had to settle for a solitary losing bonus point despite a battling second half performance at the RDS in Dublin.
- Ospreys fall to second defeat in successive games away to the top two in PRO12
- Trailing 16-3 at the break a Dan Baker try and the kicking of Sam Davies brought the Ospreys back to within three points but they had to settle for a losing bonus point
- Next up is the big derby against the Scarlets at the Liberty in three weeks time
Despite taking the lead with an early Sam Davies penalty, during a positive start for the visitors, Leinster were able to chip away with the wind at their backs and build up a commanding 13 point lead at the break.
However, the Ospreys showed plenty of character to enjoy the better of the second half, a Dan Baker try and another eight points from the boot of Davies bringing them right back into the contest. However, despite laying camp in Leinster territory in the closing minutes they were unable to find a way through for a score to draw level or win it.
It was a brutal afternoon for a youthful Ospreys side with an average age in the starting XV of just 23, with a number of players forced out of the action through injury, but the Ospreys spirit shone through to the end.
The first points of the afternoon came in the fourth minute, Davies with a straightforward three pointer after Leinster were penalised for not rolling away.
Dmitri Arhip went off for a HIA after taking a bump to the head and his replacement, Ma’afu Fia, was in the thick of it in a pack that was enjoying the upper hand at the scrum early on as the Ospreys dominated the opening period, in terms of possession and territory, without finding a way to extend their lead.
With the Moldovan returning to the field in the 12th minute the Ospreys were still enjoying the better of it, but they found themselves trailing four minutes later as Leinster claimed the first try of the contest.
There appeared to be little danger at a Leinster scrum inside their own half. However, Ian Madigan was able to make huge ground, drifting inside Davies and carrying deep into opposition territory and as the ball was moved to the right it was Fergus McFadden who supplied the scoring pass to Daniel Leavy. Madigan converted and the home side led 7-3.
Madigan then stretched the lead to seven points in the 20th minute after the Ospreys were guilty of going off their feet at the breakdown.
With Tom Grabham on as a blood replacement for Ben John, there was then a lengthy stoppage as Rory Thornton received treatment from the Ospreys medical team, eventually being allowed to continue.
After a bright start from the Ospreys it was now Leinster who were in control, slick passing and strong running seeing them gaining ground every time they attacked, but as the clock ticked past the half hour they had to settle for a couple of Madigan penalties to keep the scoreboard ticking over, taking the score up to 16-3. In between the penalties, John returned to the action with his head bandaged up.
Madigan then missed with a long-range effort five minutes before the break, before the Ospreys launched a counter-attack from a turnover inside their own 22, Owen Watkin and Jeff Hassler taking it deep into Leinster territory. Olly Cracknell was stopped just short before Thornton lost possession five metres out.
Leinster cleared and an incredible passage of play continued with Hassler running it straight back at them, before the ball was moved the width of the field to the left wing where they had men over. Unfortunately, Dan Evans was wrapped up in the tackle and the chance was gone as Leinster stole possession to ensure they headed down the tunnel with a healthy advantage.
HALF-TIME: LEINSTER 16 OSPREYS 3
Half-time changes saw Matavesi make way for Jonathan Spratt and Adam Beard replace Thornton.
Having ended the first half on the offensive but unable to make it count, the Ospreys needed a positive start, and after more strong running from Hassler took them into the 22 where Leinster were penalised for killing the ball, Davies put over his second successful kick.
With the Ospreys enjoying the best of the early second half exchanges, as they had the first, Fia, Gareth Thomas, Scott Otten and Tom Habberfield were introduced to the action, Arhip, Smith, Parry and Evans off.
Another Hassler break up the right put the Ospreys deep inside Leinster territory and after Cracknell found himself hauled down just a couple of metres short it was recycled quickly, great feet from Baker allowing the number eight to sidestep Hayden Trigg to cross for his 12th Ospreys try. Davies’ conversion was good, which meant that with just 20 minutes to play the deficit was now just three points.
Madigan was able to put some more daylight between the two teams just a few minutes later, his simple penalty from 25m out taking the scoreboard to 19-13 in the hosts favour.
Almost immediately though, referee Ian Davies spotted a Leinster hand in the ruck and Davies was able to cut the gap back to three with a kick from the 10m line.
It was incredibly tense stuff as a young Ospreys side dug deep against a Leinster team packed with international experience, and inside the final 10 the old man of the team, Joe Bearman, was sent on in place of Cracknell.
Awarded a penalty against Davies for not releasing, Leinster went to the corner, their pack rumbling towards the line ominously only to be halted illegally by the Ospreys pack. Leinster went again but this time the Ospreys were able to resist, eventually winning a penalty on the floor as the breakdown got messy.
Via a second penalty at the lineout the Ospreys were able to work their way into the Leinster 22 with just five minutes only for the setpiece to misfire again, allowing the home team to clear.
There was a late reshuffle with just two minutes left when Beard limped off. With no forwards remaining on the bench, Grabham came on with Ben John going into the back row and James King into the second row.
The Ospreys were unable to find a way through and left the field disappointed. Focus will now turn to the visit of the Scarlets at the Liberty Stadium three weeks today.