Leinster maintained their 100% home winning record in this season’s GUINNESS PRO12 with a 19-16 defeat of the Ospreys at the RDS.
Leo Cullen’s men made hard work of it, though, scoring a lone penalty from Ian Madigan in the final 50 minutes as the Ospreys launched a stirring second half fight-back.
Dan Leavy’s second try in as many games, converted by Madigan who also landed three penalties, had the home side leading 16-3 at half-time.
Sean Cronin and man-of-the-match Ben Te’o stood out in attack for Leinster whose defence managed to frustrate the Welshmen until Dan Baker’s 60th-minute touchdown.
Sam Davies converted, adding to his two earlier penalties, to put just three points between the sides. Madigan and Davies swapped further kicks, but Leinster did just enough to hold on in a nail-biting climax.
The result sees Leinster keep the pressure on provincial rivals Connacht at the top of the table, while it was a further dent to the Ospreys’ top four and Champions Cup qualification hopes.
Davies, who nursed a rib injury late on, had kicked Ospreys into the lead with a third minute penalty, as Leinster struggled to get into their stride in the early stages.
Rhys Webb and Davies’ quick distribution from half-back, combined with strong carrying from back rower Baker, gave the visitors some promising attacking opportunities.
However, it took just one midfield break to open up the defence for Leinster’s first try. Madigan attacked the space offered to him off the side of a scrum, combining with the onrushing Fergus McFadden who fed Leavy to touch down to the right of the posts.
The flanker’s seven-pointer was added to by a Madigan penalty and Leinster were beginning to purr, with the powerful Te’o crashing through in the centre.
Cullen’s charges absorbed some further pressure before Madigan made it 13-3, rewarding Cronin, Te’o and Eoin Reddan for some lovely link-up play.
With the wind picking up at Leinster’s backs, Baker was pinged for not rolling away on the half hour and Madigan slotted the central penalty for a 13-point gap.
The Ireland out-half pushed a long range effort wide five minutes before the break, and the Ospreys went unrewarded for a breathless late spell sparked by a Jeff Hassler run.
Into the second period, Davies’ second successful penalty gave the Welsh region some encouragement but they failed to profit from a couple of close range lineouts.
An Isa Nacewa surge up the left wing got Leinster back on the front foot, while a strong burst by Leavy was ruined by a knock-on forced by the retreating Baker.
The big Ospreys number 8 – topping the carry statistics – then delivered a try on the hour just as the game was beginning to lull. He stepped out of a tackle from Hayden Triggs to finish smartly by the posts, with Davies converting.
Madigan punished a high tackle with Leinster’s first points for 34 minutes, but poor discipline from the province saw Davies respond almost immediately for 19-16.
Resolute Ospreys defending kept their line intact after Leinster turned down a kickable 73rd minute penalty, however the men in white muddled a lineout and Baker then threw a forward pass, allowing the hosts, with 100-cap flanker Dominic Ryan now on, to wind down the clock for a narrow win.
Over 30,000 tickets have now been sold for Leinster v Munster in Aviva Stadium. Will you be there? Tickets are available from €;20.
LEINSTER SCORERS: D. Leavy (1 try), I. Madigan (1 conversion and 4 penalties)
OSPREYS SCORERS: D. Baker (1 try), S. Davies (1 conversion and 3 penalties)
15. Zane Kirchner
14. Fergus McFadden
13. Garry Ringrose (Noel Reid, 77)
12. Ben Te’o
11. Isa Nacewa CAPTAIN
10. Ian Madigan
9. Eoin Reddan (Luke McGrath, 56)
1. Cian Healy (Peter Dooley, 46)
2. Sean Cronin (Richardt Strauss, 43)
3. Mike Ross (Tadhg Furlong, 43)
4. Ross Molony
5. Mick Kearney (Hayden Triggs, 50)
6. Rhys Ruddock (Dominic Ryan, 71)
7. Dan Leavy
8. Jordi Murphy
REPLACEMENT NOT USED: Cathal Marsh.
OSPREYS: Dan Evans; Jeff Hassler, Josh Matavesi, Owen Watkin, Ben John; Sam Davies, Rhys Webb CAPTAIN; Nicky Smith, Sam Parry, Dmitri Arhip, Tyler Ardron, Rory Thornton, James King, Olly Cracknell, Dan Baker.
REPLACEMENTS: Scott Otten, Gareth Thomas, Ma’afu Fia, Adam Beard, Joe Bearman, Tom Habberfield, Jonathan Spratt, Tom Grabham.
REFEREE: Ian Davies (WRU); ASSISTANT REFEREES: Mark Patton, Richard Kerr (both IRFU); CITING COMMISSIONER: Eugene Ryan (IRFU); TMO: Olly Hodges (IRFU).