The Ospreys’ winning start to the season came to a grinding halt, Leinster securing a winning bonus point and ensuring the region head home empty handed despite a late second half rally.
- Playing into the Dublin wind the Ospreys trailed 24-0 at half-time, before Leinster scored their fourth try shortly after the restart
- A second half rally saw the Ospreys score three tries, through Ben John, Dafydd Howells and James King but were unable to get the fourth that would have secured two points
- Next up for the Ospreys is a return trip to Ireland next weekend before they welcome Cardiff Blues to the Liberty a fortnight tonight
Playing into a strong wind in the first 40, the Ospreys struggled for territory and possession, ill discipline and handling errors letting them down as Leinster scored 24 points without reply before the break. The hosts scored their fourth try of the night shortly after the restart, going 31-0 ahead, only for the Ospreys to then score three of their own to end the game desperately seeking a fourth that would have seen them leave Dublin with both a try and a losing bonus point.
Ben John, Dafydd Howells and James King touched down for the Ospreys with Dan Biggar kicking two conversions.
Early Leinster pressure was rewarded with a penalty right in front of the posts, Jonathan Sexton with the simplest of kicks to get the scoreboard moving with just four minutes on the clock.
A lovely grubber from Garry Ringrose then put the home team in a great position, with the Ospreys throwing in on their own line. Leinster pressure disrupted the visitors’ set-piece, allowing the boys in blue to steal possession and pound the line. The white wall held firm though and the Ospreys were awarded a penalty 5m out, allowing Biggar to clear.
After the initial pressure, the Ospreys looked to get a foothold in a game being played mainly between the 22s, but it was another kick from Ringrose, improvising well as the Ospreys aggression caused Leinster problems on halfway, that put the hosts back deep into Ospreys territory, Isa Nacewa’s chase winning a lineout for Leinster.
With a penalty advantage after the Ospreys had brought the maul down it was Josh Van Den Flier who reached over to ground the ball for a score confirmed by the TMO, Sexton converting.
To this point we hadn’t seen much of the Ospreys as an attacking threat, but a turnover close to their own line allowed Sam Davies to clear and, after Ben John’s chase ensured Nacewa was robbed of possession on halfway some lovely interplay took the visitors close to the Leinster line. Josh Matavesi’s offload seemingly put Jeff Hassler though on his 50th appearance only for a huge hit by Nacewa to halt his progress.
Nacewa was at the centre of everything and, with 27 minutes played, he was on the receiving end of an attempted tackle from Dmitri Arhip that was adjudged high, resulting in the Moldovan being shown a yellow card and taking a 10 minute break.
What they needed now was cool heads but they played themselves into trouble just a couple of minutes later, Tyler Ardron stripped of the ball by Van Den Flier as he looked to run it out from his own line.
With the Blues in possession they pushed towards the line and, eventually, Luke McGrath was able to get over and dot it down, only for the TMO to rule no try, knock on, after multiple viewings that all seemed pretty inconclusive either way.
There was no respite though as Leinster were awarded a penalty at the resulting scrum and they kept the pressure on, driving the Ospreys backwards, with Matavesi packing down in the back row after King had been withdrawn to get Ma’afu Fia on.
Twice more they were awarded penalties before, at the third attempt, referee Marius Mitrea headed under the posts to award the penalty try, Sexton’s kick making it 17-0 with 33 minutes on the clock.
With Arhip’s sinbinning over and the prop and King standing pitchside awaiting the nod to return, the Ospreys probed and prodded, trying to find a way through, only to lose possession inside the Leinster half.
With confidence flowing, the hosts launched a swift counter that ended with Zane Kirchener offloading to Sexton just five metres out and the outside half crashed through Matavesi’s tackle to score, before picking himself up to round off the half with the extras.
HALF-TIME: LEINSTER 24 OSPREYS 0
It got worse for the Ospreys inside five minutes of the restart as Leinster grabbed the bonus point try. It came from some scrappy play by both sides around halfway, the home team eventually claiming possession and launching an attack which ended with Van Der Flier dancing past two tackles to score his second, Sexton again converting.
The Ospreys really should have grabbed their first points a few minutes later, Matavesi breaking through the middle and carrying strongly befpre feeding Rhys Webb with the line beckoning, but the scrum half couldn’t gather, the ball going to ground in a moment that summed up the first 50 minutes for the Ospreys.
The try eventually came on 53 minutes through John, sliding over in the corner for his fourth of the season. It came following an old fashioned tap and go penalty, the forwards taking turns to drive for the line before Biggar spun the ball wide for the Loughor man in acres of space out on the left. The conversion attempt struck the post, leaving the score at 31-5.
The game looked lost but the Ospreys refused to throw the towel in, keeping fighting for the cause. Leinster were reduced to 14 in the 68th minute when Sexton was shown yellow after offending as the Ospreys pounded on the line with a series of close range drives.
The visitors opted to go for the scrum, which they were able to use as the platform for a second try with nine minutes still to play, Beck’s long pass following an attacking scrum sending replacement Howells over before he added the extras.
They kept going and three minutes later Leinster found themselves back under their posts as Sam Davis fed King following good carries from Howells and Dan Baker, the flanker going under the posts. Biggar’s conversion reduced the deficit to 12 points with five minutes to play.
An improbable two points was possibly on the cards as the clock moved towards 80 minutes but, once again, the Ospreys found themselves back in their own 22. However, Alun Wyn Jones won the ball on a Leinster throw which gave them a chance for one last counter and it looked for a moment as though they had carved an opening for Howells to go the length of the field but the ball went forward and the chance was lost.
With Ulster taking the Ospreys’ spot at the top of the PRO12 table following their win in Glasgow on Friday night, there’s no time to dwell on the defeat as the team look ahead to next Saturday’s clash with the new leaders at Kingspan Stadium.