Leinster back on track against Ospreys
Seán O’Brien’s try lays foundation for dominant Heineken Cup display away from home
Leinster’s Seán O’Brien hands off Ospreys outhalf Dan Biggar at Liberty Stadium in Swansea. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Ospreys 9 Leinster 19: Leinster bounced back from the disappointment of their derby defeat to Munster with a solid win over Ospreys in Swansea that saw them join Castres at the top of Heineken Cup Pool One.
The French champions - who will arrive at the RDS next week - beat Northampton earlier on Saturday afternoon and Leinster followed suit thanks mainly to much-improved work at the breakdown and their ability to kill off the Ospreys after Seán O’Brien’s try and Jimmy Gopperth’s game management gave them control.
Ospreys had a lot of the ball, but Matt O’Connor’s side doggedly defended the gainline and drove home their advantage to deny the homeside a losing bonus point with a late penalty from the New Zealander.
“Last week we kind of got taught a lesson by Munster in terms of getting first to the breakdown,” Jamie Heaslip told Sky Sports afterwards. “We know quick ball wins game and we gave our backline some quick ball and did some damage. But the Ospreys kept coming and coming and I think that game could have gone either way if I’m honest.
“We’re happy with the win but we’ve got a lot to work on before next week.”
Ospreys captain AlunWyn Jones admitted: “We weren’t good enough, it’s as simple as that. We had a lot of possession but when you have that much possession and you turn it over as much as we did you don’t deserve to win a game.”
The Ospreys, whose points came from Wales outhalf Dan Biggar, will head to Franklin’s Gardens next weekend knowing defeat will leave them facing an almighty task if they are to reverse the recent trend of Welsh sides failing to reach the knockout stages.
It started so promisingly for the hosts as they shot into a 6-3 lead courtesy of two Biggar penalties, with Gopperth knocking over one of his own for the visitors. But their performance unravelled when they spurned a great opportunity 25 minutes in.
After indecision from scrumhalf Tito Tebaldi the ball made its way to Richard Hibbard on the right flank and with two men outside him, the hooker attempted to barge over but was held up short. The Ospreys were still awarded a penalty and opted for a scrum having had the better of the setpiece battle, and with Leinster’s Ireland tighthead Mike Ross off the field due to a apparent hamstring problem.
But Leinster wheeled and drove their opponents back to win a vital penalty, and they were soon ahead.
Heaslip stripped Andrew Bishop of the ball in midfield and set off up field. Rob Kearney took the attack on before Seán Cronin did what opposite number Hibbard could not and found a pass to allow O’Brien to barrel over, with Gopperth converting.
The former Newcastle man cemented Leinster’s lead with a long-range penalty and the visitors were ahead 13-6 at the break.
Biggar trimmed the lead shortly after the resumption, but scrumhalf Tebaldi quickly allowed Gopperth to cancel out the three points after an ill-advised tap-and-go saw the ball go loose and the Ospreys ended up under all manner of pressure in their own 22.
Leinster were firmly on top at the breakdown and the pressure they exerted in that area led their Welsh hosts to make costly mistakes.
Knock-ons from Wyn Jones and Biggar wasted attacking situations, and even when Justin Tipuric put replacement Jeff Hassler free down the right, Gopperth proved up to the task of dumping the winger into touch. The outhalf even denied the Ospreys a losing bonus point as he slotted his fourth penalty late on.
OSPREYS: R Fussell; B John, A Bishop, A Beck, E Walker; D Biggar, T Tebaldi; D Jones, R Hibbard, A Jones, A W Jones (c), J King, R Jones, J Tipuric, J Bearman. Replacements: R Bevington for D Jones (51 mins), J Hassler for John (57 mins), T Habberfield for Tibaldi (59 mins), A Jarvis for A Jones, S Lewis for R Jones (both 63 mins), S Baldwin for Hibbard (70 mins), M Morgan for Beck (74 mins).
LEINSTER: R Kearney; F McFadden, B Macken, G D’Arcy, D Kearney; J Gopperth, I Boss; C Healy, S Cronin, M Ross, D Toner, M McCarthy, K McLaughlin, S O’Brien, J Heaslip (c). Replacements: M Moore for Ross (19 mins), J McGrath for Healy (63 mins), R Ruddock for McLaughlin, E Reddan for Boss, L Fitzgerald for Macken (all 69 mins), Q Roux for McCarthy (73 mins).
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England).