Leinster 20 Ospreys 16

The Ospreys had to settle for a losing bonus point after a narrow defeat against Leinster at the RDS tonight.


Dan Biggar scored all the Ospreys points, putting his side into a 16-10 interval lead, but the European champions fought back in the second half to secure a hard fought win.

On a glorious Dublin evening there was no sign in the air of the volcanic dust from Iceland that has been causing so many travel problems over the last two days, problems which the Ospreys has sidestepped thanks to the decision to spend the week in Ireland.

There was a late change for the Ospreys, Lee Byrne pulling out with a tight hamstring and Gareth Owen replacing him, Tom Prydie joining the replacements. The hosts were also forced into a change before the first whistle, Eoin Reddan being replaced by Paul O'Donohoe in the number nine shirt.

After the fireworks of the previous two games, there was a fairly low-key opening to this one, Sonny Parker's big hit on Shane Horgan that left the winger needing lengthy treatment being the only real incident of note in the opening 10 minutes.

However, the game burst into life with 11 minutes on the clock as Leinster opened the scoring, despite the Ospreys being the side on the offensive. With referee Alan Lewis playing a knock-on advantage to the visitors, Filo Tiatia and Jerry Collins made good progress before Andrew Bishop was halted just short of the line. As the ball was recycled, Dan Biggar looked to float a miss-pass out to the wing but it lacked any real pace, allowing Isa Nacewa to step in and intercept, racing the length of the pitch to score under the posts, providing the easiest of conversions for Fergus McFadden.

The Ospreys responded well, taking the ball back up to the Leinster 22, and after being awarded a couple of penalties, Biggar was able to slot over to make it 7-3. However, straight away the difference was back up to seven points, Mcfadden scoring after Paul James was penalised for bringing down the scrum. The exchange of penalties continued with Biggar successful from near halfway after Shane Jennings had interfered in the ruck illegally.

Despite trailing, the Ospreys were playing an intelligent game which was giving them plenty of territory and possession with the wind at their backs. They almost carved an opening in the 24th minute, working the ball through numerous phases before finally getting it to Shane Williams hugging the touchline. The winger, who scored his 50th Ospreys try in midweek against Ulster, tried to force his way over from close range only to be bundled into touch by O'Donohoe and Kevin McLaughlin.

The Ospreys patience was rewarded just after the half hour as they took the lead for the first time through a Biggar try. The move stemmed from a defensive Leinster line-out in their 22, Ian Gough doing excellent work to steal the ball away. Several Ospreys took turns to inch their side forward, Ed Shervington prominent, before the ball found Biggar who shrugged off the challenge of Mike Ross to score in the shadow of the posts, picking himself up to convert.

Minutes later, the 20-year old fly half made it 16 for the Ospreys and 16 for himself personally with his third penalty of the night after O'Donohoe was caught coming into a ruck from the side, giving the Ospreys a six point lead.

With the interval approaching, Leinster built up their best spell of possession so far following a line out on the Ospreys 22. The hosts went through more than a dozen phases as they looked to edge towards their opponents line, only to be met by ferocious defence from the Ospreys who refused to budge an inch, and as the clock turned 40 minutes, Gareth Owen forced a turnover, allowing Jamie Nutbrown to clear, bringing the first period to an end.


Having enjoyed the better of the closing minutes of the first half, Leinster were on the offensive straight away following the restart, and the Ospreys were slightly fortunate just two minutes in, Shaun Berne making a great break into the 22 only for his wayward pass to Girvan Dempsey to find the arms of Biggar who was able to clear.

The hosts were then offered the chance to reduce the deficit in the 45th minute when Alun Wyn Jones was penalised for not releasing Jamie Heaslip in the tackle, but McFadden made a hash of a seemingly easy penalty, slicing it wide of the right hand post.

Leinster were dominating the early stages, and it came as no surprise when Leinster retook the lead on 50 minutes through Berne, a burst of pace taking him away from Marty Holah to score after Leo Cullen provided quick ball from the line-out, McFadden converting to put his side one point in front.

It was an enthralling competition between the Magners League's first and second placed teams, with both sides probing and constantly looking for opportunities to attack, as the pace of the game actually increased with the hour approaching.

McFadden had the opportunity to give his side the slightest of breathing spaces with a penalty from the a central position on the10 metre line with fifteen minutes remaining after Holah went off his feet at a ruck, but again, he sent it wide of the sticks.

Leinster's constant pressure was taking its physical toll on the visitors after three tough games in just seven days, and they almost snatched a try after Jennings stole the ball from Holah at the back of an Ospreys line-out. Heaslip went on the charge, and it was replacement Craig Mitchell who did excellent work to halt Stan Wright short of the line, stealing the ball for Hook to clear. The hosts kept coming forward, and the referee had to go to the TMO for assistance after a Berne drop goal attempt. With the evidence proving inconclusive, the decision went in the Ospreys favour.

After absorbing so much pressure from Leinster, the Ospreys looked to take the ball back up field as they looked to find their way back, but with six minutes remaining on the clock, their hopes of snatching victory took a blow when Ian Gough received his second yellow card in consecutive games for a late challenge on Berne. McFadden's long range penalty was successful, leaving the Ospreys needing a try to win the game.

The visitors stuck to the task and kept plugging away, going through numerous phases looking for the try, but the Leinster defence stayed resolute and were able to keep the Ospreys at bay to ensure the victory.