Leinster kicked off the Matt O’Connor era in the Heineken Cup with a clinical 19-9 win away to their bogey side Ospreys.
Man of the match Sean O’Brien scored the game’s opening try as Leinster shrugged off an early 6-0 deficit and the loss of Irish tight-head prop Mike Ross with a suspected calf strain.
Jimmy Gopperth piloted the team superbly at out-half and his late penalty also ensured the home side did not even escape from their home turf with a bonus point.
Leinster will now look confidently towards a table-topping RDS clash against Castres next Saturday, for which Brian O’Driscoll could be available as the three-times champions look to take an early qualification stranglehold.
Ospreys hit the ground running as rusty Leinster struggled to find their rhythm.
Dan Biggar opened the Welsh team’s account from the kicking tee in only the second minute when Justin Tipuric earned first blood in his breakdown battle with Lions rival Sean O’Brien after Duncan Jones’ scything tackle on the Tullow man.
In the ninth minute, the lively home side doubled their lead when Biggar nailed another penalty after the home side countered deep in Leinster territory after Isaac Boss was caught dithering at the base of a ruck.
The away side were encouraged by their first visit to Ospreys’ to territory in the 17th minute. A burst from O’Brien was stopped by Tipuric but Ryan Jones spoiled on the ground and Jimmy Gopperth halved the deficit.
Mike Ross was forced off with what looked like a calf strain early on though and Leinster were swiftly in deep trouble, losing a free-kick and a penalty from the first two scrums after Martin Moore’s debut Heineken Cup introduction.
But he responded brilliantly when Ospreys turned down a kick at goal in search of a penalty try, Moore pushing superbly against Duncan Jones to earn his side a relieving penalty.
Despite losing the lineout, Leinster compounded that steal, Jamie Heaslip’s half-way line thievery setting up some powerful drives, before Gopperth enabled Sean Cronin’s powerful burst to the line, creating the opening for O’Brien to pounce for the game’s opening try in the 28th minute.
Goppeth converted and, against the run of play, were leading in the slippery Swansea conditions. When Jones broke from another decent Leinster scrum, Gopperth lined up a monster kick from inside his own half that he made with more than bit to spare for a 13-6 half-time lead.
However, Ospreys responded strongly, getting Moore’s number in the opening scrum of the second act and Biggar narrowed the gap to four points, 13-9, after 44 minutes only for Gopperth to restore the seven-point margin just three minutes later.
Ospreys always remain a threat though and, after a Tipuric steal near his own line, Gopperth had to effect a last-ditch tackle to jostle Jeff Hassler into touch as he dashed down the touchline with the chalk at his mercy.
And he added the coup de grace with the late penalty that ensured a 4-0 match points that could prove to be so crucial in this pool of heavyweights.
Ospreys: R Fussell; B John (J Hassler 57), A Bishop, A Beck (M Morgan 74), E Walker; D Biggar, T Tebaldi (T Habberfield 59); D Jones (R Bevington 51), R Hibbard (S Baldwin 70), A Jones (A Jarvis 63), A Wyn Jones (capt), J King, R Jones (S Lewis 63), J Tipuric, J Bearman.
Leinster: R Kearney; F McFadden, B Macken (L Fitzgerald 69), G D'Arcy, D Kearney; J Gopperth, I Boss (E Reddan 69); C Healy (J McGrath 63), S Cronin, M Ross (M Moore 19), D Toner, M McCarthy (Q Roux 70), K McLaughlin (R Ruddock 69), S O'Brien, J Heaslip (capt).