REPORT: Ospreys 32 Leinster 18
REPORT: Ospreys 32 Leinster 18
March 24, 2018 / Dave Mervyn
Leinster Rugby were unable to make up a half-time deficit as the four-try Ospreys took the spoils at the end of an entertaining Guinness PRO14 encounter at the Liberty Stadium tonight.
Leinster had to cope with a severely-disrupted back-line in Swansea, losing Fergus McFadden, Noel Reid and replacement Dave Kearney to first half injuries as the Ospreys built a 19-8 half-time lead.
The Welsh region transferred their 76% share of possession onto the scoreboard with a brace of tries from Dan Evans and one from Tom Habberfield, while Barry Daly hit back with his tenth score of the campaign before the interval.
The 7,816-strong crowd witnessed two more tries in the second period as Justin Tipuric and Rory O’Loughlin swapped converted scores, before two Dan Biggar penalties – sandwiching a Joey Carbery effort – gave the victorious Ospreys a 14-point winning margin.
It was only Leinster’s second defeat in all competitions since November, and Leo Cullen’s men, who now turn their attention to next weekend’s Champions Cup quarter-final against Saracens, remain three points clear at the top of Conference B as the second-placed Scarlets lost to Munster in Limerick.
The visitors got off to an encouraging start, winger McFadden producing a couple of hard hits and centre O’Loughlin’s right-wing break preceding a seventh-minute penalty which Ross Byrne turned into three points. The province’s lead lasted just five minutes.
Biggar rose to gather his own garryowen and an attack out to the left saw Bradley Davies’ well-timed pass drew in two defenders and released Tipuric, who combined with Hanno Dirksen to put Evans over in the corner. The converted try set a new record for the number of tries in a regular PRO14 season – 712.
While Carbery looked sharp in defence, covering well at full-back, he was then switched to centre after McFadden and Reid’s head injury assessments resulted in the pair’s permanent withdrawal from the game.
Dave Kearney, who had come on at full-back, had to be taken off barely 10 minutes after his introduction. He went off with his arm in a makeshift sling, with Jamison Gibson-Park – the final back on the bench – having to cover for him at full-back.
By that stage Evans had completed his brace for a 12-3 lead, the Ospreys taking Leinster through 13 phases before Kieron Fonotia’s pass was juggled and then successfully grounded by Evans.
Gibson-Park and Daly combined to force a knock-on out wide and rally the Leinster troops, but the hosts had luck on their side when Ashley Beck’s flipped pass back inside missed Evans, its intended target, but scrum-half Habberfield was able to gather it to run in try number three.
Leinster replied in a timely fashion, building pressure after replacement Adam Byrne beat Alun Wyn Jones to the restart. A strong carry from Sean Cronin added further momentum and Daly was able to ground Ross Byrne’s stabbed kick through in the left corner.
A positive start to the closing half was undone by the Ospreys’ bonus point score, which saw centres Fonotia and Beck combine in impressive fashion and the former passed out a tackle for flanker Tipuric to dive over in the 48th minute.
Biggar’s conversion put 18 points between the teams, yet Leinster clawed their way back with a classy try from O’Loughlin four minutes later. Michael Bent and James Tracy had an immediate impact off the bench in winning a scrum penalty, and Luke McGrath’s inviting grubber was touched down by the determined O’Loughlin.
Carbery converted and then added a well-struck a penalty, suddenly reducing the arrears to 26-18, but Biggar gave the Welshmen some breathing space with a penalty goal on the hour mark. Despite Jordi Murphy going close to putting Jack Conan away and O’Loughlin making another break, Leinster were thwarted and eventually leaked a last-minute penalty to Biggar.
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