Thursday 8 December 2016

Leinster relieved to hold off Ospreys fightback

Leinster 19 Ospreys 16

Published 06/03/2016 | 02:30

Leinster's Garry Ringrose is tackled by Ospreys' Jonathan Spratt during their PRO12 clash at the RDS Arena. Photo: Ramsey Card /Sporstfile
Leinster's Garry Ringrose is tackled by Ospreys' Jonathan Spratt during their PRO12 clash at the RDS Arena. Photo: Ramsey Card /Sporstfile
Leinister's Isa Nacewa, Leinster, is tackled by Ospreys' players Adam Beard, left, and Jonathan Spratt. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sporstfile
Leinster's Ross Molony brushes by Ospreys' Sam Parryat the RDS Arena. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Ben Te'o, Leinster, is tackled by Dan Baker for the Ospreys.Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Leaving aside puns about a historic scoreline, when the sums are being done at the end of the campaign Leinster will look back on these four points as ones that could easily have gone to the away side.

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On a classic Irish spring day - sunny, with a Baltic wind chilling the crowd of 10,897 - it was a game the home side struggled to get to grips with at the start, and then had to battle to finish it off, having done all their good work in between.

Take the endgame, for example. With seven minutes on the clock and Leinster into the teeth of the wind, jittery about hanging on to their slender lead, they were awarded a penalty in the Ospreys 22. Even if Ian Madigan, who was five from six at that point, had nailed it, it would still have left them open to a defeat by a converted try. They went for the corner.

It was a good decision, rewarded with possession at the lineout, whereupon they began working their way across the field when the safer option would have been to stray no further than the goalposts. Sure enough they were turned over, and you could see it all going wrong.

Certainly Ospreys coach Steve Tandy was having those visions. "Yeah, but in the end it was a brave effort from a very young side to come to the RDS and come away with a bonus point," he said.

Leinster would give them another shot at it when, back in their own 22 a couple of minutes later, they opted to clear to touch when again you expected them to back their ability to hold on to the ball. On that occasion it allowed Dan Baker to run at them again. And that was never a good idea after the way he had left replacement Hayden Triggs on his backside to score the try on 61 minutes that had brought the Welsh side back into the game.

The best bits for Leinster had come before the break after Sam Davies had given the Ospreys an early three-point lead. On 17 minutes they scored a training ground try off a shape that Leinster use regularly enough off scrums. If the defence get their read wrong then it can be fatal. Which is what happened here. Madigan made the initial bust and found Fergus McFadden, who completed successfully the business of drawing the last man and feeding Dan Leavy for a perfectly worked try. Madigan's conversion didn't just give them a foothold in the game but the lead, at 7-3.

He tacked on another nine points for a lead of 16-3, which was a reasonable buffer to take into the wind. They had a handful of players in good form - man of the match Ben Te'o and Garry Ringrose in particular - but they could have finished the game in more comfort.

"They're a proud club with a good coaching staff and a lot to play for, so it was no surprise they made life difficult for us," Leo Cullen said afterwards. It might have been handier had Leavy not lost the ball soon after Davies had closed the gap to 16-6. Then Baker's try rattled the crowd.

Madigan, with a very good strike into the wind, and Davies swapped penalties to set up that endgame when either side could have got over the line first. Leinster - for whom Mick Kearney with a HIA and Ringrose with a knee injury were the only casualties - looked mightily relieved it was them.

Scorers - Leinster: D Leavy try; I Madigan 4 pens, con; Ospreys: D Baker try; S Davies 3 pens, con.

Leinster: Z Kirchner; F McFadden, G Ringrose (N Reid 78), B Te'o. I Nacewa (capt); I Madigan, E Reddan (L McGrath 57); C Healy (P Dooley 46), S Cronin (R Strauss 44), M Ross (T Furlong 44), R Molony, M Kearney (H Triggs 50), R Ruddock (D Ryan 72), J Murphy, D Leavy.

Ospreys: D Evans (T Habberfield 55); J Hassler, J Matavesi (J Spratt ht), O Watkin, B John; S Davies, R Webb (capt); N Smith (G Thomas 51), S Parry (S Otten 55), D Arhip (M Fia 51), T Ardron, R Thornton (A Beard ht; T Grabham 79)), J King, D Baker, O Cracknell (J Bearman 72).

Referee: I Davies (Wales).

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