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Leinster Rugby (9) 15 - 10 (10) Ospreys
RDS Showground, Dublin
Friday, 7th January 2011, 19:35

It was a miserable rainy night in the RDS which saw the first visit of the Ospreys since their May raid last year to take the Magners' League from hot favourites Leinster. Leinster started 7 players from the grand final 15 with another 3 from that day's bench starting this time round. The Ospreys on the other hand were missing many of their first choice players. It was however an Osprey's player who started both days who had the biggest impact on the result this time around.

Dan Biggar was the first to put points on the board in the third minute when Leinster were penalised for pulling down a maul. The lead only lasted two minutes as Ryan Jones was penalised for not joining a ruck through the gate just outside the Ospreys 22 and Jonathan Sexton put the sides level. Ospreys threatened the Leinster line in the seventh minute when Nicky Walker held onto a poor pass and kicked through but Sexton was first to the ball and Leinster had a 22 drop-out. Leinster had their own chance 2 minutes later when Sexton put a clever kick through but the ball beat McFadden to the touchline giving Ospreys a defensive line-out on their own 5 metre line. The line-out was stolen by Devin Toner. It almost seemed like the big man was over seconds later but a tackle from Biggar saved the try. In the end Leinster settled for 3 points after the Ospreys were penalised.

Both sides settled into a kicking game - hoping that the slippery conditions would lead to a mistake from their opposition. When Ospreys decided to keep the ball in hand they looked more dangerous. A missed tackle by D'Arcy on Sonny Parker brought them into the Leinster half. This pressure eventually led to an Osprey scrum at which they were awarded a free kick. The kick was quickly taken but a knock on from Rhys Webb gave Leinster a scrum in their 22 and a chance to clear their lines. Reddan's clearance kick was blocked down and Tipuric was the first to get to the dangerously bouncing ball. After a visit to the TMO Ospreys had the first try.

Ospreys continued to pressurise with ball in hand and were almost over again in the 21st minute but Fussel was bundled into touch just short of the line. The slippery ball led to a messy line-out and Leinster carried the ball back over their own line giving Ospreys a 5 metre scrum. The forwards made up for the line-out with an excellent scrum, earning Leinster a penalty which Sexton cleared to half-way. He failed to find touch however and Ospreys ran the ball straight back. There was a sign of things to come in the 29th minute when Leinster were penalised directly in front of their own posts in their own 22. The ball began to topple from the kicking tee as Biggar began his run up and he scuffed at it. It hit the underside of the cross-bar and Luke Fitzgerald touched down.

Leinster gave their fans something to shout about in the 34th minute when Heaslip passed to Reddan off the base of a Leinster scrum in their own 22. Reddan broke down the blind side making it to almost half way before off-loading to the supporting Shane Horgan. Horgan was tackled inside the Ospreys half but quick ball sent the ball the width of the pitch. The move broke down when Leinster were penalised for crossing and Ospreys cleared. It was Leinster's best period of the match and they were rewarded with a penalty on half-way for Ospreys off-side. The kick was taken quickly and a flick pass from Sexton to Horgan brought them back into the Ospreys 22. The ball was turned over by Biggar however and cleared to touch. Leinster again attacked and when Ospreys were penalised for lazy running, Sexton kicked the penalty and the sides went in at half time separated by only one point.

Biggar had a chance to widen that gap to 4 in the 2nd minute of the second half with a difficult kick. His kick hit the post and it was left to Sexton to open the scoring in the second half. Ospreys were penalised for coming in from the side in the 49th minute and Leinster led for the second time in the match. Biggar had a chance to regain the lead almost immediately when Leinster were penalised on their 10 metre line but his kick was wide. Another strong scrum from Leinster in the 54th minute led to a penalty. Nigel Owens played advantage and Heaslip picked from the base before passing to a supporting Reddan. Reddan put a grubber kick through but the ball was collected by Fussel. Owens went back for the penalty which Sexton put wide. He had another chance just 2 minutes later. Rhys Webb threw the ball into the crowd preventing a quick Leinster line-out and was punished by Jonathan Sexton adding another 3 points to Leinster's total.

Biggar had opportunities to close the gap in both the 63rd and 64th minutes. First, with a kick from almost half-way and then with a kick just outside the 22 but towards the touchline. The first fell short and the second was pulled wide. Leinster continued to pressurise in an attempt to deny Ospreys a losing bonus. Sexton had a drop goal attempt charged down in the 71st minute. Leinster withstood late pressure before Osprey's were penalised for holding on and late substitute Nacewa kicked the ball to touch to end the game. The final score was 15-10 or 4-1 in terms of league points earned.

Leinster's unbeaten start to the year continued although the same cannot be said for the standard of performance we have been enjoying of late. Still, with conditions as they were, I'm sure most fans will be happy to have gotten the win against a team that must be among our strongest competition for a top four finish in this year's league. Although you have to wonder what the outcome would have been had Biggar brought his kicking boots. The result strengthens our position in the top four nicely before we turn our attentions back to Europe for the next two weeks.

Match Statistics

Leinster Rugby

Ospreys
Tries

Tipuric (16 mins)
Conversions

Biggar
Penalties Sexton (5)

Biggar

Teams Luke Fitzgerald
15 Barry Davies
Shane Horgan
14 Nikki Walker
Brian O'Driscoll
13 Sonny Parker
Gordon D'Arcy
12 Ashley Beck
Fergus McFadden 11 Richard Fussell
Jonathan Sexton
10 Dan Biggar
Eoin Reddan
9 Rhys Webb

Cian Healy
1 Duncan Jones
Richardt Strauss
2 Huw Bennett
Mike Ross
3 Craig Mitchell
Leo Cullen (C)
4 Ian Gough
Devin Toner
5 Ian Evans
Dominic Ryan
6 Tom Smith
Shane Jennings
7 Justin Tupuric (C)
Jamie Heaslip
8 Ryan Jones

Replacements Jason Harris-Wright
16 Mefin Davies (for Bennett, 62)
Heinke van der Merwe (for Healy, 41)
17 Ryan Bevington (for Jones, 51)
Clint Newland
18 Cai Griffiths (for Mitchell, 59)
Nathan Hines (for Cullen ,56)
19 James Goode (for Evans, 70)
Rhys Ruddock (for Heaslip, 62)
20 Jonathan Thomas (for Smith, 70)
Isaac Boss (for Reddan, 66)
21 Jamie Nutbrown (for Webb, 62)
Ian Madigan
22 James Hook
Isa Nacewa (for Sexton, 79)
23 Gareth Owen

Not Considered
due to Injury
Stan Wright,
Rob Kearney,
Paul Ryan

Jonathan Spratt,
Ben Lewis,
Ben John,
Shane Williams,
Conor McInerney,
Lee Byrne,
Jerry Collins
Officials Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)
Assistant Referees: Simon McDowell, Mark Hermin (both IRFU)
4th Official: Barry O'Keefe (Leinster Rugby Referees)
5th Official: Gary Glennon (Leinster Rugby Referees)
TMO: Seamus Flannery (IRFU)

by Yvonne Kelly, © 2011-01-11

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