Leinster left in a scramble for play-offs after allowing early lead to slip away
RUGBY: Ospreys 19 Leinster 10:Leinster slipped in the Welsh rain as defeat to the Ospreys saw the European champions slide down to sixth in the RaboDirect Pro12 standings. Joe Schmidt’s side failed to build upon their early 10-point lead and the Welsh region hit back to continue their recent hold over Leinster.
Eli Walker crossed for a try, while outhalf Matthew Morgan kicked the rest of his team’s points as the Ospreys claimed a fourth successive win over the Dubliners. Schmidt will be hugely frustrated after his team seized the initiative at the Liberty Stadium only to fail to register a single point after the eighth minute.
And he admitted a third away defeat of the campaign has already left Leinster in a “scramble” to make the play-offs. Schmidt said: “We are sixth in the league now and I’m pretty uncomfortable with that position. I would have preferred to go into this [autumn] break on a far better note.
“There are now seven or eight teams in the mix for the play-offs and it’s going to be a mad scramble to make it.”
Schmidt could also not disguise his disappointment with the performance of Irish referee John Lacey, in particular at the scrums, where Leinster appeared to have the upper hand, though were thwarted time and again by the Munster official’s whistle.
Schmidt said: “We are incredibly frustrated. We thought we had the dominant scrum but the referee didn’t see it that way. It reached the stage where even when we were going forward three or more yards, the penalty went the other way.
“But you have to give credit to the Ospreys. Morgan kicked well and it was a great break by Richard Fussell for the try and that was the pivotal moment in a see-saw game.”
Leinster may have been without their international brigade but still possessed a wealth of know-how and shrewdness in Isaac Boss. The scrumhalf set the tone with a break virtually from the kick-off that was followed up well by Andrew Conway.
Madigan converted his first penalty inside four minutes before Boss spotted an acre of space behind a lineout and had both the presence of mind and deftness of touch to chip over the top, only for the speed of the ball to skip off the greasy turf and elude a despairing lunge by Fionn Carr with not a black jersey in sight.
However, the bounce of the ball was kinder to Leinster from the resulting lineout.
Rhys Ruddock showed he was back to full match sharpness following his recent lay-off by charging down a clearance kick from scrumhalf Rhys Webb just a yard from the Ospreys’ line.
The spinning ball eluded the grasp of Andrew Bishop and Auva’a got the benefit of the doubt from the video official that he had successfully grounded possession. Madigan’s conversion opened a handsome 10-0 lead after just eight minutes.
That was immediately protected by Ruddock who denied opposite number George Stowers a try with his telling tackle. However, Matthew Morgan kicked a brace of penalties to trim the lead to 10-6.
Leinster missed two chances to extend their advantage amid slippery conditions.
Again Boss was the catalyst with another smart blindside break that released Conway. The wing’s kick deflected off Richard Fussell. but Conway could not re-gather in time.
A sustained period of pressure earned a penalty but Madigan steered his effort across the face of the posts, the miss compounded by Morgan striking with the last kick of the half to leave Leinster just a point ahead at the break.
On the back of that success, the Ospreys began the second half the more lively and Walker went close after Conway failed to deal with Fussell’s kick through.
Both kickers missed with their next efforts including one from the half-way line by Madigan, after Duncan Jones was shown a yellow card following a burst in midfield by Auva’a.
With kicking conditions difficult, Madigan threatened to cross the line with an impressive burst that was only thwarted by Webb’s fingernails.
Yet with Jones in the sin bin, the Ospreys still produced the game’s defining moment. Morgan took a quick lineout and fullback Fussell glided past Ruddock, Ben Marshall and Thomas Sexton and handed Walker a straight sprint to the line in the 61st minute.
Morgan added a well-worked late drop goal to seal the win.