Three first-half tries from the Ospreys saw them secure a comfortable victory over Leinster at the Liberty Stadium in the opening RaboDirect PRO12 fixture of the new season.
A try inside the first 100 seconds from Rhys Webb set them on their way, before Hanno Dirksen and Justin Tipuric touched down, Dan Biggar adding 12 with his boot. A solitary Mat Berquist penalty just after the half hour mark was Leinster’s only reply, going in 27-3 down at the break, and there was to be no further scoring in the second half.
The Ospreys made an explosive start, scoring the first try of the season with barely 90 seconds on the clock through scrum-half Webb. The move began with Ian Evans winning good turnover ball just inside the Leinster half allowing the backs to spin the ball wide at pace. Webb, Ashley Beck, Andrew Bishop and Richard Fussell all made good yards, before Webb popped up in support on the wing to take the scoring pass and go over in the corner, Biggar adding the extras despite the tricky angle
In a positive opening for the hosts they were able to put their visitors under a period of pressure with Evans prominent in the line-out, and after Beck and Jonathan Thomas had been held up short trying to force their way over the line, a Leinster offence allowed Biggar to stretch the lead.
The Ospreys were playing positively and full of confidence, and only the TMO prevented them extending their lead in the 18th minute. An overthrown Leinster line-out on the 10m line allowed the Ospreys to pounce, working it swiftly to Dirksen on the left wing who fought through several tackles before being stopped a metre short. The ball was recycled, Dirksen was again held up short, before Thomas thought he’d gone over only for the TMO to rule that he hadn’t grounded the ball.
Nevertheless the try soon came as the Ospreys put Leinster under real pressure from the resulting scrum and this time there was no stopping Dirksen who ducked under the tackle of Dave Kearney in the corner to score, the TMO approving the try on this occasion. Biggar’s conversion took the score to 17-0 at the 20-minute mark.
Leinster had struggled to make any real headway in the opening quarter but an Ospreys offence a metre in from the touchline allowed them the chance to get on the board but Berquist made a hash of kick which had neither the length or the distance.
The Ospreys came straight back at Leinster, a prolonged spell of pressure eventually telling as Biggar took the option of a drop goal, slotting over from in front of the posts.
The visitors did eventually get their first score, just after the half hour mark, Berquist with a simple penalty on the 22 after Tom Smith was pinged at the breakdown.
Leinster were coming back into it as the interval approached, as a number of refereeing decisions frustrated Ospreys players and fans alike, but with the clock showing time they were able to grab a well deserved third try. Webb was the architect showing good footwork and no little composure, his chip over the last man Isa Nacewa allowing skipper Tipuric to chase through, collecting an awkward bounce and sliding over the line to score. Biggar’s conversion with the final kick of the half took the score to 27-3 at the break.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 27 LEINSTER
No Leinster team will ever lie down and the Ospreys were braced for an early backlash from the visitors, who would have wanted an early score to keep them in the game.
As such, it was no surprise to see the opening minutes of the half seeing Leinster on the offensive but they were unable to breach a wall of black on the Ospreys line which eventually forced the knock on to win a scrum, allowing them to clear the lines.
Still Leinster attacked, and awarded a penalty in the 48th minute for Cai Griffiths not rolling away after a tackle on Nacewa, they opted to go for the lineout as they looked to claw their way back. Again they failed to find a way through, but once more the Ospreys were frustrated by the ref’s whistle, another penalty going against the hosts. Again Leinster opted for the lineout from which they continued hammering on the door, Kevin McLaughlin driving his way over from close range. Mr Fitzgibbon referred it to the TMO for thr third time of the night, who ruled that the combined efforts of Beck and Tipuric had held the Leinster flanker up.
After a string of penalty offences by the Ospreys, skipper Tipuric was sent to the sin-bin in the 52nd minute for going off his feet.
With the Ospreys a man down it was one-way traffic at this stage, but they remained resolute in defence, frustrating Leinster at every turn, the crowd roaring at every tackle and big hit as they fought to keep their line intact.
Despite all the Leinster pressure it was the Ospreys who threatened to score next, a solid scrum with Bishop packing down as flanker providing the base to attack. Kristian Phillips looped across field showing good gas, but a Leinster hand managed to intercept his pass to fellow wing Dirksen who was sniffing around for his second try.
Having ridden out the storm Ospreys tails were up again, Biggar’s boot keeping them in the Leinster 22 as the crowd levels began to rise, and the roar went up again as Tipuric returned to the field with Leinster having failed to reduce the 24-point deficit.
After an adventurous, expansive opening 40 we were seeing another side of the Ospreys in the second period, with tenacity and doggedness the keywords.
Leinster finally looked to have carved an opening in the 66th minute, working an overlap on their left, but the final pass to Carr drifted forward as the wing was faced with a simple run-in from close range.
With the clock ticking down the Ospreys again found themselves back on the offensive as they looked for the bonus point try, but it wasn’t to come and the Ospreys had to be content with just the three tries in a convincing win to kick the new season off.