I say this in the piece but people on some forums don't seem to have noticed so I'll repeat it here...the above photos are merely to highlight the incidents in question, they aren't meant as irrefutable evidence.
When your team takes the lead in the first couple of minutes and doesn't relinquish it until the last few, it's bound to get your emotions running high. Particularly when it's a home game, and even more particularly when there's a long-running unbeaten streak on the line.
So the reactions of the Leinster fans after this one were quite predictable...first you had the more one-eyed protestations about botched TMO calls and unfortunate injuries, then later on you get the more pragmatic fans pouring scorn over the fact that a 13-point lead was allowed to evaporate.
Well some may say I'm sitting on the fence when I say both versions played their part, but I can only call it as I see it and it really was an extraordinary series of events that brought about this final score with plenty of praise and criticism to be fired around at everyone involved.
First let's deal with the Ospreys themselves shall we? Of all the non-Irish teams I have seen come to Dublin over the years, they are the ones who consistently display the least amount of fear in what has proven overall to be a very difficult arena for away sides. They are focused from the get-go, and always seem to know exactly how to extract the most from every given situation.
Of course not everything they do is on the legal side of things, but that's not necessarily a complaint on my part. They have always struck me as a very professional outfit who know exactly which grey areas of the laws to inhabit and do it very well.
And when they are given a chance, by God they can take it with style. Their first try by George Stowers was the result of a sweet move down the right flank when offered only a minimal about of space which they exploited to perfection.
On Leinster's side of the ball, despite the near “dream team” nature of the starting lineup, it was like we were in the same frame of mind as we were for the reverse fixture in Swansea back in September.
Sure,O'Driscoll had some good rushes and tackles and Thorn put himself about but they couldn't hide a rake of errors by the home side –multiple knock-ons in the tackle, falling asleep at the breakdown,penalties from the hand not finding touch. And of course there was Luke, who had a decent carry or two, but still made a couple of poor decisions trying to deal with penalties at the touchline, the second of which proved costly.
Even the Madigan try, though an excellent finish, only came after an overthrown Leinster lineout which took a ridiculously fortunate bounce for the outhalf who had celebrated his 23rd birthday just a couple of days before and was no doubt grateful of this present.
And crucially many of the home errors were concentrated at the one period of the game where it was there to be won – during the (albeit harsh)sin-binning of Justin Tipur-lake.
You will notice that I have been at pains to point out Leinster' errors before I ever mention the word “scrum”. To lose one tighthead is unlucky; to lose both, even more unlucky. But refusing the option ofuncontested scrums can only be described as inexplicable. Maybe Jack McGrath has played tighthead in training, but you must take every advantage you can in this game and that decision played a major part in the Ospreys literally going the length of the field to get their winning try.
Now...to the two TMO calls. I think both were tries. I've done my best to capture still frames above but when you see the action you can clearly see a partial grounding in both cases. So I have no idea why the TMO didn't award the first one by Heinke van der Merwe (on the left above)? The angle in that picture is the one where you see the grounding – he looked at it once, and I even saw it on the RDS screen at the time.
But the TMO Alan Rogan went on to look at every other angle at least twice each (none of which gave any notion of what happened) and actually went back to the “good” angle only to stop the video before you can see the ball being grounded! I don't understand it myself, and I have done my best to be objective looking at both replays – in Hibbard's case you do see a brief flash where it goes down then up again having disturbed some grass in the process.
And then of course there's the conversion. Before I analyse it, let me make it clear that it was an absolute cracker of a strike by Dan Biggar. We Irish fans were all gushing over Rob Kearney's drop goal attempt at Twickenham and how it “deserved” to count for 3 points so in some ways the same must be said for this, particularly considering the situation he was in.
But even if the TMO is a bit suspect, how on earth can you NOT refer to him for such a vital kick that decides a game? Again looking at the replay, the ball strikes the very top of the post and sails directly over it in the same direction it was coming from. Of course we can't speculate where it would have gone if the posts were higher, but the rule is that over the upright is not a score. So it was definitely worth a look upstairs, and would have been at any stage of the game.
Most sports that have introduced video refereeing have offered a“challenge” to both sides and perhaps it is time it came into rugby? Both sides have one challenge, it's up to them how they use it. Could have been the difference between winning and losing in this match anyway!
However,despite the questionable officiating, I have to repeat there was enough on Leinster's side of things to suggest they didn't deserve to keep the unbeaten streak going, and in actual fact when you look back over some of the results they had more than their fair share of good fortune so we were probably due for things to go the other way.
And it wasn't like there weren't any positives. BOD saw his 55 minutes through very well. Thorn got a game under his belt before his first taste of a hostile Thomond Park. McFadden kicked 6 from 8 but also did enough at 12 to show he was worth a look there in the Six Nations.
You could even go as far to say that it's in some ways a good thing that the streak is broken. With much bigger games down the line, Joe Schmidt can now use his coaching sessions constructively and allow his squad gather their composure to find winning ways once again,something he has proven a master at doing since his arrival in Dublin.
For the time being, pending of course the status report on our tighthead trio, this Leinster fan isn't too worried about the implications of this defeat. Who knows – come seasons end we may end up thanking the Ospreys for doing the league double over us! JLP
UPDATE - Moments after publishing the above, the "Leinster Squad Update" was posted on the provincial website - it seems Hagan is out for a while with damaged rib cartilage, White needs to be monitored with an announcement made Friday, though the good news is that it seems Mike Ross will be ok to play in Thomond and (fingers crossed!) beyond.
ALSO THIS WEEKEND
Fri March 23
Edinburgh 15-29 Dragons
Glasgow 24-6 Aironi
Saturday March 24
Treviso 23-27 Ulster
Cardiff Blues 14-26 Scarlets