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Dublin: 12°C Sunday 9 May 2021

Leinster's young guns earn their stripes in seven-try rout of the Ospreys

Leo Cullen’s side stretched their lead at the top of Conference B with a big win at the RDS.

Leinster 52

Ospreys 7

Ryan Bailey reports from the RDS 

WE’VE COME TO expect it at this stage, but the rate in which exceptional young talent is coming off the Leinster production line never ceases to amaze, and it was on full show here tonight.

You can only sit back in awe, for this was an accomplished, and clinical, display from a team containing as many as seven academy players, as Leo Cullen’s side ran in seven tries against a feeble Ospreys outfit.

Conor O'Brien celebrates scoring a try with Ciaran Frawley and Hugo Keenan Conor O'Brien celebrates his first-half try. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Everywhere you looked there were outstanding performances from those in blue, from debutant Scott Penny, to Hugo Keenan at fullback, to Ciaran Frawley’s mastery and play-making ability in the pivot. The kids are certainly alright.

And then there was the leadership of Scott Fardy, the Australian showing his worth in everything he did, on a night Leinster extended their lead at the top of Conference B with an eighth Pro14 victory from nine outings.

In addition to Penny, who marked his senior breakthrough at the age of 19 with a first-half try, there were Leinster debuts for Jimmy O’Brien and Jack Kelly off the bench, with Leinster again showing just how strong their unrivalled depth chart is. 

Conor O’Brien’s first-half try set the wheels in motion and as the Welsh visitors completely rolled over, Leinster took full advantage to establish a strong scoreboard lead before cutting loose after the break. 

Penny added the second at the back of a powerful maul, Nick McCarthy sniped over from close-range and from there it was a complete rout, with Fardy, Max Deegan and the Byrne twins — Ed and Bryan — getting in on the act.

Frawley, on his first start of the season, was outstanding in pulling the strings at 10 and was faultless from the tee, finishing the evening with 17 points to his name. He was deservedly named man of the match. 

As for Ospreys, this was another horribly disappointing showing from Allen Clarke’s side on the road — not too dissimilar to the humbling they experienced in Cork earlier in the season — as they offered little resistance in the face of a blue onslaught.

Even with far greater experience in their side, they were bullied in all facets — save for an initial burst of ambition — and Leinster’s back row of Penny, Josh Murphy and Caelan Doris earned their stripes on both sides of the ball. 

With as many as 19 players away on international duty, and a handful of untimely injuries further limiting Cullen’s hand, this was a potentially tricky return to Pro14 action for Leinster. Not a bit of it. 

It was understandable, however, that Leinster — with Penny on debut, Keenan making his first senior start and Doris running out at the RDS for the first time — showed initial rust, and perhaps some nerves, before settling into the task.

Ospreys, with Sam Davies keen to test the youthful spine to this Leinster outfit, pitched tent inside the opposition 22 for the opening exchanges, pulling the blue shirts one way and then the other.

Caelan Doris offloads to Ciaran Frawley despite Tom Habberfield Doris offloads for Frawley. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

The electric pace of Keelan Giles had Leinster scrambling on more than one occasion but Fardy — captaining the province for the first time at home — made contribution-after-contribution in making one crucial tackle on the left and then a trademark turnover under the posts to relieve the pressure.

On the back foot, Leinster showed a clinical edge in converting their first attacking foray into a scoreboard advantage — and it was the effervescent James Lowe who provided the X-factor to get the hosts, and indeed the crowd of 12,973, into the game. 

With his parents among the natives on their first trip to Dublin, Lowe turned on the magic on this near side with a sumptuous one-handed, basketball-style offload to free McCarthy, who danced back inside to bring Leinster inside opposition territory.

Having soaked up the pressure at one end, Frawley’s simple pass off his left, combined with the angle of Fardy’s run, cut the Ospreys apart as O’Brien shadowed the Leinster skipper to run it in under the posts for his second Leinster try.

Leinster were up and running, and after Frawley had tacked on the extras, the out-half then extended the lead to 10 points from the tee after the Welsh region had infringed on the ground.

From there, it was all one-way traffic.

Having initially put the Leinster front row under pressure at the scrum, Michael Bent found a powerful response to win a set-piece penalty, allowing Frawley to launch a booming touch-finder up the line.

The first onslaught failed to yield dividend, as Frawley’s cross-field kick for Adam Byrne was well marshalled by Giles, but Leinster reset at the lineout and clean ball through Fardy set the wheels in motion for a well-worked maul try.

Penny, having stood out during the Celtic Cup campaign, not least for his remarkable return of eight tries in six ‘A’ appearances, wasted little time in opening his senior account, finishing the move off after the Leinster forwards had obliterated the Ospreys.

Nick McCarthy scores a try McCarthy sniped over for Leinster's third try. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Having established a commanding lead, Leinster very nearly allowed the visitors a route back into the game in rather cheap fashion, but referee Marius Mitrea correctly ruled James Hook’s score out after Johnny Kotze needlessly impeded Noel Reid’s attempt to shuffle across and cover the danger.

For all their  invention going forward, the Ospreys’ handling and execution let them down, while Clarke’s side — winless on Irish soil since September 2016 — rolled over far too easily in defence.

Their indiscipline proved costly, too, and Leinster were taking full advantage, this time McCarthy sniping over from close-range after the forwards, notably Fardy, Murphy and Doris, had edged their way towards the striking zone.

It would be McCarthy’s last involvement as the scrum-half — who hobbled off at half-time — didn’t return for the second period, but Leinster’s dominance continued and the bonus-point score wasn’t long in coming. 

Lowe mixed ingenuity with brawn to evade the first tackle and provide the platform for Fardy to get it down at the base of the post for a TMO-awarded score, with the impressive Frawley duly converting.  

With the points securely in their possession, Cullen took the opportunity to unload his bench but there was no let-up from Leinster, as replacement prop Ed Byrne added the fifth try after Hugh O’Sullivan’s initial break. 

The sixth followed shortly after, as Reid’s deft kick was collected by Adam Byrne, who in turn fed Deegan to gallop home before the Byrne brothers combined for Bryan to crash over. 

Ospreys did have the last say with a consolation try through Hanno Dirksen, but as the PA announcer confirmed upon the full-time whistle, this was a hell of a show from Leinster’s young guns. As comprehensive, and easy, as you like. 

Leinster scorers:

Tries: Conor O’Brien, Scott Penny, Nick McCarthy, Scott Fardy, Ed Byrne, Max Deegan, Bryan Byrne.
Conversions: Ciaran Frawley [7 from 7]
Penalties: Ciaran Frawley [1 from 1]


Tries: Hanno Dirksen
Conversions: Sam Davies [1 from 1]

LEINSTER: 15. Hugo Keenan, 14. Adam Byrne, 13. Conor O’Brien (Jimmy O’Brien 62′), 12. Noel Reid, 11. James Lowe (Jack Kelly 67′), 10. Ciaran Frawley, 9. Nick McCarthy (Hugh O’Sullivan 40′); 1. Peter Dooley (Ed Byrne 48′), 2. James Tracy (Bryan Byrne 59′), 3. Michael Bent (Vakh Abdaladze 62′), 4. Ross Molony (Mick Kearney 62′) , 5. Scott Fardy (captain), 6. Josh Murphy (Max Deegan 59′), 7. Scott Penny, 8. Caelan Doris. 

OSPREYS: 15. James Hook (Luke Morgan 45′), 14. Hanno Dirksen, 13. Cory Allen, 12. Johnny Kotze (Tom Williams 58′), 11. Keelan Giles, 10. Sam Davies, 9. Tom Habberfield (Matthew Aubrey 62′); 1. Rhodri Jones (Gareth Thomas 58′), 2. Scott Otten (Sam Parry 45′), 3. Tom Botha (Alex Jeffries 58′), 4. Giorgi Nemsadze (Rob McCusker 58′), 5. Lloyd Ashley, 6. Olly Cracknell (captain), 7. Sam Cross (Will Jones 64′), 8. James King. 

Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR).

Attendance: 12,973.

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About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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