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Ospreys (5) 8 - 13 (0) Leinster Rugby
Liberty Stadium
Friday, 5 March 2009, 19:10

The teams in second and third place took each other on with both vying to take the top spot at least until Munster's match on Saturday. Leinster fielded a strong team with only one change from the victory over Scarlets a fortnight ago: Jackman replacing Brian Blaney. Leinster were missing only Brian O'Driscoll, Luke Fitzgerald, Rob Kearney and Jamie Heaslip to the national  team, while Ospreys were missing a dozen players to the Welsh setup.

The opening 15 minutes were punctuated by handling errors and errant kicks as the early down pouring of rain had left conditions slippery. It was from a period of scrappy play that Leinster almost fashioned the opener. Shane Jennings pounced on a loose ball and hacked through leaving the Osprey hooker in his wake. With the line looming Skirvington leaned on  Jennings to put him off and from the ensuing ruck Jowitt tried to bundle over but the TMO confirmed that it had been held up. Leinster went on to butcher the ensuing chance from the 5 metre scrum.

After a quarter Leinster received a blow when they lost Nacewa to injury, the winger leaving the field on a stretcher with a heavily strapped knee. The disruption seemed to get to Leinster, and Ospreys created the first clear opening with Philips racing down the wing, but a superb covering tackle from Paul O'Donohue saved the day. Despite the reprieve Leinster couldn't clear their lines and Ospreys crossed over for a try from Sonny Parker. The try followed a clear knock on in the build up that was missed by referee Peter Fitzgibbon as well as his touch judges despite being incredibly blatant.

The match was a half hour old and Leinster's early ineptitude was summed up by a quick lineout by Felipe Contepomi to Shane Horgan. While Contepomi's throw was marginally forward to Horgan the return pass was so far forward that even Fitzgibbon couldn't miss it and possession was lost.

The match didn't get much better from there to half time as both sides were guilty of fumbling the greasy ball. The scrum was causing a problem too as both sides were binding errantly and penalties and free kicks ensuing from most scrum downs. It was in fact a relief to hear the half time whistle ushered in by another error when the ball was cleared out on the full. One thing was certain Cheika had his work cut out for him at half time.

Leinster looked to up the intensity by bringing Sean O'Brien at half time and the early exchanges showed a renewed vigour by Leinster. This was epitomised by Shane Horgan's tackle that won a penalty which Contepomi slotted home. Ospreys had a chance to strike back a few minutes later after some interesting refereeing of the breakdown by Fitzgibbon but Biggar continued a poor night with the boot by slicing wide.

Sexton's quick thinking almost created an opening with an excellent cross field kick which Elsom fielded and passed back inside to Keogh. Ospreys covered well and forced him out of play. From the ensuing lineout Elsom stole and Leinster surged for the line. Ospreys were desperate and killed the ball as best they could and eventually a penalty was given with Tia Tia given ten minutes in the bin. Felipe Contepomi obliged with the extras to give Leinster the lead for the first time.

Leinster then fashioned a try from a lineout. A good throw in from Blaney was gathered and passed from Hogan to Whitaker who sprung a snappy pass to Contepomi.  He drew two tacklers, neither of whom could stop him. D'Arcy was on the Argentine's shoulder and when Contepomi fed him he used great strength to finish under the posts. The conversion was an academic one for Contepomi and with it Leinster had established a two score lead.

Leinster were beginning to turn the screw and Keogh was almost through for a try after a clever Sexton kick but the Ospreys survived. Fitzgibbon's interpretation of the laws were continuing to bewilder as he gave a penalty against Contepomi despite clear hands on from the Ospreys scrumhalf. The referee had adjudges the ball not to be out and to compound matters Contepomi was sinbinned for the perceived offence. The second week in a row that he had seen yellow.

Ospreys were trying to use their man advantage but the game remained scrappy and couldn't make the pressure count as Leinster defended well. Contepomi returned to the field after his ten minute break with the scores the same as when he was binned.

Contepomi saved Leinster's bacon with 3 minutes on the clock when a four in one on Leinster's wing was stopped by a firm tackle which sent the ball squirming forward, preventing the try. Leinster had another hairy moment a minute later when D'Arcy missed a tackle, but again Ospreys knocked the ball on and wasted the chance.

Ospreys had the last say however when they struck a drop goal deep in injury time to snaffle a bonus point for Ospreys but Leinster were not to be denied their win and the top of the league.

Leinster had responded well in the second half after an abject first. The win could hardly be called vintage but it was an important four points won against dogged opposition in difficult conditions and it is a win that sees the champions reach the summit hoping to be there when the league reaches its conclusion.

 leinsterfans.com Man of the Match: Rocky Elsom

Match Statistics
  Ospreys  Leinster Rugby
Tries Parker   D'Arcy
Conversions     Contepomi
Penalties     Contepomi (2)
Drop Goals Biggar    
Sin Bin Tiatia (55 - 65)
  Contepomi (69 - 79)
Teams Gareth Owen
15 Girvan Dempsey
Jonny Vaughton
14 Shane Horgan
Sonny Parker
13 Fergus McFadden
Andrew Bishop
12 Gordon D'Arcy
Kristian Phillips
11 Isa Nacewa
Dan Biggar
10 Felipe Contepomi
Jamie Nutbrown
9 Paul O'Donohue
Paul James (C)
1 Cian Healy
Ed Shervington
2 Bernard Jackman
Cai Griffiths
3 Stan Wright
Filipo Levi
4 Trevor Hogan
Andy Lloyd
5 Malcolm O'Kelly
Tom Smith
6 Cameron Jowitt
Marty Holah
7 Shane Jennings (C)
Filo Tiatia
8 Rocky Elsom
Replacements Marc Breeze
16Brian Blaney (for Jackman, 48)
Craig Mitchell (for Griffiths, 79)
17Stephen Knoop
Rory Pitman
18Devin Toner (for Hogan, 57)
Steve Tandy (for Lloyd, 65)
19Sean O'Brien (for Jowitt, 40)
Rhodri Wells (for Spratt, 74)
20Chris Whitaker (for O'Donohue, 48)
Jonathan Spratt (for Owen, 60)
21Jonathan Sexton (for McFadden, 48)
David Bishop (for Phillips, 14)
22Simon Keogh (for Nacewa, 20)
Not Considered
due to Injury
Richard Hibbard (ankle)
Nikki Walker (hamstring)
Ben Lewis (knee)
Duncan Jones (foot)
Ian Evans (knee)
Lyndon Bateman (knee)
  Leo Cullen (shoulder)
Chris Keane (knee)
CJ van der Linde (toe)
Ronan McCormack (neck)

by Sarah Lennon, © 2009-03-09