Final quarter charge sees Ospreys win away at Leinster for first time in nine years

Ospreys come from 19-3 down to record a stunning 24-19 victory.

Image: Gary Carr/INPHO



THIS WAS SUPPOSED to be the ideal dress rehearsal. Except it was largely a support cast who were out here on stage, learning lines they may never get to use. But that wasn’t the central storyline here. No, that was what happened in the final 13 minutes.

Leinster looked home and hosed, 19-3 ahead, cruising. They then fell asleep, conceded a soft try to Olly Cracknell, lost replacement Andrew Smith to a yellow card and more importantly, lost momentum. Two further tries – Owen Watkin and Josh Murphy getting them – followed. 

Worse again, Leinster panicked. At no stage in that final 13 minutes did they look like regaining control. It was their first defeat to a Welsh side in three-and-a-half years, their first at home to Ospreys since 2012.

Munster next week will be a different story, a final rather than a dead rubber, a real rivalry rather than a manufactured one.

The only thing we can be sure of is that Leo Cullen will make changes to his starting XV. It may be as many as 15.

Ultimately, Ospreys deserved this. All the early pressure came from them, their ability to get on the front foot assisted by an energy you don’t always get from them. They recycled quickly, got a couple of line breaks, profited from out-half Luke Price’s scheming, should have had a few points as a reward for their efforts.

That they didn’t come stemmed from a couple of things, Price unwisely kicking rather than running on six minutes, Leinster staying organised despite the incessant pressure. Two tackles stood out, one by Max O’Reilly on the much bigger Lloyd Ashley, another by Dave Kearney on Dewi Cross.

In these early stages, Leinster were struggling to get a foothold in the game, although Harry Byrne was certainly doing his best, one half-break led to Leinster gaining an entry into the Ospreys half, another flicked pass on 17 minutes nearly resulted in Ciaran Frawley getting Kearney away.

They hadn’t long to wait before their opening score arrived, though – a sustained period of pressure on the Ospreys line resulting in Ma’afu Fia committing a yellow card offence, leaving Leinster with the option of taking a handy three points or showing more ambition.

chris-busby-shows-a-yellow-card-to-maafu-fia Ma'afu Fia gets a yellow card for Ospreys. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

You know by now what option they went for, Scott Fardy calling for a scrum, Scott Penny breaking off it, feeding Rowan Osborne who spun it wide to Byrne.

His pace off the mark and confidence to take the gap resulted in the game’s first try. Frawley converted. Leinster were on their way.

Ospreys, though, responded quickly when a penalty from Price on 26 minutes sneaked over, even though the outhalf slipped as he struck it.

That, you’d imagine, should have settled them. Instead Leinster scored from the restart, Jamie Osborne ruthlessly exploiting the hesitancy in the Ospreys defence, collecting a ball he had no right to, before he raced uninterrupted to the line. 12-3, Frawley missed the conversion.

jamie-osborne-celebrates-scoring-a-try-with-teammates Jamie Osborne celebrates his try. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

While the remainder of the first half was an untidy mess – handling errors compounded by players from both teams taking wrong options, it didn’t take long for the second half to take flight.

Just four minutes in fact, Devin Toner having a hand in Leinster’s third try on the night he equalled the province’s appearance record, his tap back leading to Josh Murphy going on the charge, before Michael Bent, of all people, kept the move going with a linebreak; Byrne arriving on a supporting run to finish things off. Frawley converted this time.

That, you imagined, was the end of it all. 

Instead the drama was only really beginning.

First, Andrew Smith got yellow carded for a high tackle. The score was 19-3 to Leinster when he went off, 24-19 to Ospreys when he  returned, Olly Cracknell getting the first Ospreys try just two minutes after Smith’s infringement.  Josh Thomas converted, the gap reduced to nine.

Soon it was two, Owen Watkin driving through Toner en route to the line. Thomas, again, converted.

This was when Leinster needed to be calm. But there is a difference between being calm and casual. Byrne, seeking to find touch on 76 minutes, was much, much too slow getting his kick away; Thomas blocked it down, O’Reilly failed to gather the loose ball whereas Thomas didn’t hesitate as he crossed to score and complete a remarkable comeback.

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 Leinster scorers

Tries: H Byrne 2, J Osborne,

Conversions: Frawley (2/3)

Ospreys scorers

Tries: Cracknell, Watkin, Thomas

Conversions:  Thomas (3/3)

Penalties: Price (1/2)

Leinster: Max O’Reilly, Rory O’Loughlin, Jamie Osborne, Ciarán Frawley, Dave Kearney (Andrew Smith ‘65 – yellow card ’67), Harry Byrne;  Rowan Osborne (Hugh O’Sullivan ‘41), Peter Dooley (Marcus Hanan ‘62), Seán Cronin (Scott Penny ’74), Michael Bent (Thomas Clarkson ‘51-67), Ross Molony, Devin Toner, Scott Fardy (Dan Sheehan ‘46) Scott Penny (Jack Dunne ’62), Josh Murphy (Sean O’Brien ’19-30 – Jack Dunne ‘51)

Replacements:  Tim Corkery,

Ospreys: Dan Evans (CAPT); Dewi Cross (Cai Evans ’69), Owen Watkin (Tiann Thomas-Wheeler ‘7), Keiran Williams, Cai Evans (Shaun Venter ’65); Luke Price (Josh Thomas ’65), Reuben Morgan-Williams; Rhys Henry (Garyn Phillips ‘56), Sam Parry (Dewi Lake ‘56), Ma’afu Fia (yellow card 19- Tom Botha ‘54); Lloyd Ashley, Rhys Davies; Will Griffiths (Olly Cracknell ‘54), Morgan Morris (Tom Botha ’19-29), Gareth Evans (Sam Cross ’56)

Referee: Chris Busby (IRFU)

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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