Two of the top sides in the Pro12 go head-to-head at the Liberty Stadium this evening.
LIKE APOLLO CREED versus Rocky Balboa minus the girlfriend that works in a pet store, welcome Celtic rugby’s glitziest grudge match. The RaboDirect Pro12 is their sparring ground but the gloves are off this evening.
Here are you teams for this evening’s tilt at the Liberty Stadium:
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: A Dundon, J McGrath, M Moore, Q Roux, R Ruddock, E Reddan, I Madigan, L Fitzgerald.
OSPREYS: R Fussell; B John, A Bishop, A Beck; E Walker; D Biggar, T Tepaldi: D Jones, R Hibbard, A Jones; AW Jones (Capt.) J king; R Jones, J Tipuric, J Bearman.
Replacements: S Baldwin, R Bevington, A Jarvis, T Ardron, S Lewis, T Habberfield, M Morgan, J Hassler.
Both squads are littered with Lions and have gone at each other like well-fed lumberjacks in recent years.
To get you in the mood for this evening’s match, here are some highlights of the pulsating league draw played out between the two sides in September. Check out Dave Kearney’s fantastic try after some neat acceleration by Jimmy Gopperth:
Leinster coach Matt O’Connor tells Sky Sports he “probably” would take 18 points if offered to him at this stage, as he feels it would be enough to get them through the group stages.
So let’s have your predictions. Who do you think will prevail today?
(Dave Kearney warms up in the Liberty Stadium before the game – INPHO/Billy Stickland)
Not the best start for Leinster, as they concede a penalty inside the first minute.
Ospreys 3-0 Leinster: Dan Biggar makes no mistake, confidently slotting a penalty that’s some distance out but straight in from of the posts (2 mins). Advantage Ospreys.
Better from Leinster as Gopperth makes a break through the Welsh defence , and Leinster eventually win a lineout in a good position.
Sloppy from Leinster! Initially, Ospreys manage to steal possession following a knock-on.
They then win another penalty in the ensuing attack, as Leinster are penalised for being being offside.
Ospreys 6-0 Leinster: Biggar has started this game in conspicuously confident fashion.
He again casually slots over the penalty to double the hosts’ advantage (8 mins).
Leinster 3-6 Ospreys: Jimmy Gopperth gets Leinster off the mark with another routine penalty (14 mins).
Shortly thereafter, Leinster make another elementary error as Kearney kicks straight out of play.
Mike Ross has unfortunately had to go off injured. Martin Moore comes on in his place.
It’ll be interesting to see how the scrum holds up as a result.
Awesome strength from Sean O’Brien, who barrels through two players, before eventually being tackled.
As he releases it, the ball is knocked on however, and Ospreys consequently regain the initiative, ultimately kicking to earn a lineout just outside the visitors’ 22.
Another Ospreys penalty and this time they opt for a scrum, as they’re well positioned inside the 22.
A great effort from the Leinster pack, as they come out on top, with the official penalising their opponents.
TRY FOR LEINSTER!
Leinster 10-6 Ospreys: Great running from Cronin, who bursts through the Ospreys defence deep in their 22, before offloading to the onrushing Sean O’Brien, who can’t be prevented from crossing over and registering the try, despite the best efforts of the Welsh side’s defence (29 mins).
Gopperth adds the conversion to give the Irish side a four-point advantage.
Jamie Heaslip has been influential for Leinster so far.
It was his powerful run that started the break that led to the game’s first try.
Leinster 13-6 Ospreys: Gopperth retains his 100% record by slotting an impressively executed penalty over from around the halfway line (34 mins).
He’s certainly justifying his selection ahead of Madigan, as all of a sudden, Leinster have established a decent lead.
HALF-TIME: OSPREYS 6-13 LEINSTER
So it’s been a “half of two halves” as a colleague put it.
Ospreys were on top early on. However, the Irish side have come back strongly in the last 15 minutes.
The turning point was arguably Leinster winning a scrum against the head deep in their own 22.
From there, they seemed to grow in confidence, and Sean O’Brien’s excellently taken try was the culmination of their increasing dominance.
Leinster’s encouraging performance is perhaps somewhat surprising, given their poor record against Ospreys in recent times.
And they’re by no means safe yet, as the tweet below indicates.
The second half has begun…
Another marauding run from Cronin. However on this occasion, he ill-advisedly opts for a light chipped kick, only serving to hand Ospreys possession and the attacking initiative in the process.
Shortly thereafter, there’s an absolutely huge hit from Healy on Walker, which helps take some of the pressure off the Leinster defence.
Ospreys 9-13 Leinster: Another penalty from Biggar reduces the gap between the teams to four points once more (43 mins).
The goal kicking today has been flawless from both sides, with neither Gopperth or Biggar missing any kicks yet.
Leinster 16-9 Ospreys: Leinster produce the desired response, as Gopperth kicks yet another penalty in a typically assured fashion (48 mins).
(Sean O’Brien scores Leinster’s first try despite Osprey’s Tito Tebaldi’s efforts — INPHO/Billy Stickland)
Leinster have put Ospreys under a lot of pressure in recent minutes.
However, the Welsh side hold firm, showing good nerve to win a lineout in their 22.
Worryingly for Matt O’Connor, the sloppy errors are coming back into Leinster’s play.
Sean Cronin has just been penalised for what is an obvious forward pass as the visitors’ attack prematurely comes to an end.
Though it’s still only 16-9, Leinster are playing well and look fairly comfortable at the moment.
Meanwhile, Cian Healy is replaced by Jack McGrath with just over 15 minutes remaining.
Fantastic turnover by Tipuric as a Leinster attack in the opposition 22 breaks down.
The Welsh side then break, before Gopperth makes a brilliant try-saving tackle, as Jeff Hassler dashes towards the line.
This looks like it’ll be a tight finish.
Eoin Reddan and Luke Fitzgerald have come on for Isaac Boss and Brendan Macken for Leinster.
Just over 10 minutes remaining…
It’s been a frustrating recent few minutes and indeed, a frustrating half really for Ospreys.
Leinster have been in control amid an intelligent tactical performance, with the majority of the game being played in the hosts’ half.
In addition, McCarthy has been replaced by Quinn Roux.
Sky Sports’ Stuart Barnes says that Leinster have been the better team “by some distance”.
He also points out that statistics can be misleading, as the fact that Ospreys have had 62% possession comes onscreen.
Sean O’Brien gets a much-deserved man-of-the-match award.
Less than two minutes remain.
Leinster 19-9 Ospreys: The magnificent Jimmy Gopperth kicks a penalty in front of the posts to seal the Irish side’s victory (78 mins).
Importantly, it also prevents Ospreys getting a bonus point.
FULL-TIME: OSPREYS 9-19 LEINSTER
Jamie Heaslip admits “a lot of work was put into that performance”.
He concedes that Munster “taught them a lesson” last week. He emphasises that the Irish side “getting quick ball” was key and says they won the “attritional battle”
Meanwhile, Alun Wyn Jones explains that Ospreys “weren’t good enough”. He says he “doesn’t know” why they lost the scrum battle and claims “we know we’re better than that”.
Right, that’s all from me for tonight.
Thanks for reading and commenting and enjoy the rest of your weekends.
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