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Leinster hold firm at the death to stay on the heels of Connacht

Leo Cullen’s men survived a nervy finish to record their third straight win.

Image: Gary Carr/INPHO

Leinster 19
Ospreys 16

Ryan Bailey reports from the RDS

THESE TWO SIDES have served up some ding-dong battles in the Pro12 down the years and while this contest won’t go down as a classic, it kept everyone on the edge of their seat right to the death.

Leinster will feel they should have settled it long before the final stages, when they were forced to dig deep to keep Ospreys at bay.

Leo Cullen’s men managed to muster enough resolve to withstand a spirited comeback from the visitors and record a third successive victory to move within touching distance of Connacht again.

The narrow victory also maintains their 100% winning record at home in the league this season.

But they were made to work a lot harder for it than many imagined. Ospreys used the strong breeze at their back in the second-half to give themselves a sniff of victory but a 13-point half-time deficit proved too much to overturn.

Leinster were slow out of the blocks but clicked into gear when a training ground move created the opening for Dan Leavy.

The flanker had the simple task of dotting down on 16 minutes after Ian Madigan and Fergus McFadden conjured a moment of quality from the setpiece.

Madigan created the initial opening for McFadden and it was his offload which then allowed Leavy to run in to open Leinster’s account and set the hosts on their way.

Dan Baker scores their first try Dan Baker gave Ospreys hope in the final 20 minutes. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

It was one of few passages of play which got the crowd off their feet during a half otherwise riddled with unforced errors.

Ospreys were guilty of committing most and Madigan made no mistake from the tee on three consecutive occasions to extend Leinster’s advantage after Sam Davies had given the visitors an early lead.

The momentum shifted on the restart and Ospreys worked their way back into proceedings. Both Cian Healy, who made his 150th appearance for the province, and Mike Ross were withdrawn minutes after the interval and the visitors assumed control.

Neither Ireland international stamped their authority in the game and Healy was found wanting at times during his involvement, with a couple of uncharacteristic handling errors resulting in a frustrating afternoon.

Davies reduced the deficit with his second penalty and Ospreys had their tails up when Dan Baker forced his way through with 20 minutes remaining.

Madigan’s fourth penalty gave the home side some breathing space but Davies responded at the other end to set up a nervy finale.

Ben Te'o and Jeff Hassler Te'o was hugely impressive and was named man-of-the-match. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

It was the ultimate game of two halves and man-of-the-match Ben Te’o afterwards described the first as enjoyable and the second not as much.

The hosts were rewarded for some free-flowing rugby as Te’o, in particular, conjured several magic moments. Sean Cronin, too, was impressive as Leinster played with ambition and freedom before the interval.

It was a different story after it, however, as they were forced to defend for large periods.

They had managed to frustrate their opponents until the hour mark when Hayden Triggs’ missed tackle allowed Baker storm under the posts.

The game was back in the balance at that stage and Ospreys appeared likely to produce a snatch and grab finale with a line-out deep inside Leinster territory.

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But another handling error proved crucial and allowed Leinster see out the final minutes in possession.

The reaction of the crowd when Luke McGrath kicked the ball dead after 80 minutes spoke volumes of the scare their side were given.

At this juncture of the season, a win is a win and Leinster will head into their week off with plenty of encouragement but also plenty to improve on ahead of a trip to Glasgow.

Leinster scorers: 
Tries: Dan Leavy
Conversions: Ian Madigan
Penalties: Ian Madigan (4)
Ospreys scorers:
Tries: Dan Baker
Conversions: Sam Davies
Penalties: Sam Davies (3)

Leinster: Zane Kirchner, Fergus McFadden, Garry Ringrose, Ben Te’o, Isa Nacewa (captain), Ian Madigan, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Mike Ross, Ross Molony, Mick Kearney, Rhys Ruddock, Dan Leavy, Jordi Murphy.

Replacements: Richardt Strauss, Peter Dooley, Tadhg Furlong, Hayden Triggs, Dominic Ryan, Luke McGrath, Cathal Marsh, Noel Reid.

Ospreys: Dan Evans, Jeff Hassler, Josh Matavesi, Owen Watkin, Ben John, Sam Davies, Rhys Webb (captain); Nicky Smith, Sam Parry, Dmitri Arhip, Tyler Ardron, Rory Thornton, James King, Olly Cracknell, Dan Baker.

Replacements: Scott Otten, Gareth Thomas, Ma’afu Fia, Adam Beard, Joe Bearman, Tom Habberfield, Jonathan Spratt, Tom Grabham, Steve Tandy.

Referee: Ian Davies (WFU).

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About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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