Leinster 29 Ospreys 7
The bonus-point victory was a great deal harder won than it appeared it would be in the opening quarter of the match and for that the Ospreys deserve credit for the manner in which they scrambled defensively, occasionally riding their luck.
Leinster’s victory contained some excellent rugby but there were several instances when they could have made the evening a little more comfortable if they had been less blinkered and narrow in focus and orientation close to the Ospreys’ line.
The result will supersede those concerns in the immediate aftermath. There were some standout individual performances, Cian Healy, a try scorer, Ross Molony, Ryan Baird and the outstanding Scott Penny, another try scorer, the pick of the pack while Ross Byrne brought a calm authority and vision to his team’s better moments in attack.
His younger brother, Harry, got the man of the match honours, in his unaccustomed role at inside centre. Jamie Osborne had some nice touches, and so too Jimmy O’Brien. Jordan Larmour and replacement James Lowe upheld the honour of the backline in the try scoring stakes.
Leinster were forced into a late change with Adam Byrne promoted to the replacements after Rory O’Loughlin took ill, while Andrew Brace took over as referee in the absence of Italian Gianluca Gnecchi.
There was much to admire in Leinster’s enterprise in the first 40-minutes, albeit that greater attention to detail would have yielded a more lucrative return in points, a dividend they deserved on foot of the performance. As it transpired they had to settle for a 15-0 lead.
The home side enjoyed a promising start. A lovely in and out move from Larmour created a little space but it was Martin Moloney’s change of direction and acceleration that allowed the home side a definitive line break and when the Ospreys transgressed at a ruck in their 22, Ross Byrne kicked the first points of the game on three minutes.
Leinster continued to attack the edges, the only minor quibble that centres Harry Byrne and Jamie Osborne – both of whom excelled – were a little lateral initially in running lines but once they squared up, the home side got to the edges very effectively.
A fine charge down from Harry Byrne saw Leinster awarded a penalty at the ensuing ruck. They kicked two consecutive penalties to the corner but the Ospreys held out and eventually won a penalty as the home side were guilty of sealing off at a ruck; Leinster will be aggrieved that a couple of Ospreys’ transgressions weren’t picked up in the preamble to that moment.
Leinster finally managed to secure a first try on 20 minutes, the excellent Cian Healy punching the initial hole and when the ball reached Ross Byrne, the outhalf produced a delightfully weighted grubber kick that allowed Larmour to beat the defenders and the dead ball line to touch down for a try. Ross Byrne’s conversion hit a post but the 8-0 lead was the least the home side deserved.
On 24 minutes Luke McGrath had a try disallowed on the intervention of the TMO, Leo Colgan, for a knock-on in the build-up – the Ospreys were the initial transgressors in that respect and so Leinster got the scrum put-in – and with the visitors conceding two further penalties, number eight Morgan Morris was sent to the sin bin. The home side took advantage with Healy burrowing over from close range.
Jimmy O’Brien produced a lovely cross-kick for Dave Kearney that inspired another sweeping attacking move that culminated with Scott Penny being held up over the line. Leinster could have walked in a try if they had looked a little further than the fringes of the ruck.
The forecasted rain arrived in time for the second half and that made handling more difficult and errors in that respect understandable to a point. The Ospreys, galvanised by fresh legs and a little Leinster indiscipline enjoyed a period of ascendancy but it came undone with a loose pass in the Leinster 22.
Ross Molony pounced on the loose ball, Ross Byrne’s cross-kick for O’Brien was perfect and his inside pass sent James Lowe racing away. The Ireland wing stepped inside Luke Morgan and had the pace to