Sunday, March 21, 2021

Leinster-19 Ospreys-24

FLASHBACK


Needless to say this writeup is coming from a much happier place on Sunday morning than it would have done 24 hours earlier given what happened on Six Nations "Super Saturday"! Come to think of it, I dare say it's the other way around for Ospreys fans...

Obviously this result completes a disappointing pair of bookends to Leinster's Pro14 matches so far in 2021, but thankfully we have seen enough in between to suggest that when the knockout rugby starts this coming weekend, we should be able to find our form to compete.

So with test rugby as well for me to harp on this weekend, my format here is going to be to go write as I rewatch...

0-10

No scoring in the opening exchanges yet still plenty of evidence that those Ospreys came to the RDS to be pesky just like the old days.

A sweet inside pass from Price put Sam Parry through after just over a minute and with the likes of Owen Watkin providing strong carries our famed blue wall defence was tested early. For the most part it was holding up at this stage, repelling series of 20, 10 and 12 phases before the 10 minute mark, though we did need a bit of luck in that a O's try was called back for a knockon that might have been off the knee plus a Cross kick towards the tryline took a very blue bounce into touch.

10-20

The scoreboard didn't move in this segment either, though Leinster grew into the match more. Rather than roll through the phases against the Ospreys D however, we chose instead to kick for territory as Harry Byrne, Ciaran Frawley and Jamie Osborne were all called upon to use the boot.

Eventually it was a penalty for not rolling away that gave us our first attacking set piece in their 22 and after Josh Murphy provided the crash ball, we pummelled their try line with over a dozen phases where the visitors shipped so many penalty advantages referee Chris Busby felt he had to send one of the offenders to the bin and the honour went to Ma'afu Fia.

20-30

Right here is where the Leinster lineup began chopping and changing - Sean O'Brien was on early as a blood replacement for Josh Murphy so having opted for the scrum with the penalty to force them to use up a substitution for their prop, Scott Penny slotted back in to number 8 and he had no problem taking it himself, offloading to his 9 who then passed it on the Harry Byrne for an easy enough set play try. 7-0

The Ospreys quickly got a score back to reward their determined start when Price slotted a placekick despite slipping after contact. Small commentary sidebar - I'm not as anti-Liam Toland as many seem to be but here his cries of "give him four, five points for that!!!" did not sit well. 7-3

I'm not sure if they have a booby prize for "Half-hearted Attempt to Catch a Restart of the Season" but if they do it should definitely go to Will Griffiths. He commits to being the receiver of Harry Byrne's kick before, well, just giving up on it and after it hits the turf it sits up perfectly for Jamie Osborne who won't get an easier try at this level. 12-3

30-HT

Biggest incident in this 10-minute spell was a Luke Price penalty attempt that looked like it had the legs only for it to die at the last minute, hit the upright and fall perfectly for Leinster to clear. The rest of the half was just kick tennis, more Osprey phases going nowhere and some unforced errors from both sides.

40-50

There was a scrappy spell at the start of the half where possession went back and forth but it was all down the Ospreys end so when one of their clearances only found touch at the 22, Leinster had a great attacking lineout platform.

After a few phases were met with resistance there was Michael Bent with the kind of footwork his teammate tadhg Furlong would be proud of to get through a gap as far as the line and following up was Harry Byrne to bring it the rest of the way for our third try. 19-3

So that's that, right? Fourth try and the BP were bound to be along any minute and our biggest worry was that the Ospreys might get a consolation score or two towards the end. All very routine, right? Wrong...

50-60

I mentioned the chopping and changing earlier; well it was in this portion where it really took off. Dan Sheehan came on to play number 8 as Cronin was forced to stay on. Jack Dunne was being passed back and forth from the bench to the pitch like a hot potato, first replacing Josh Murphy and when that back rower returned, he then was snt out for Scott Penny. We rarely had two successive scrums with the same 8 in the second half.

But to be fair, while that might have affected our set piece and defensive structure, it didn't really account for the further attacking chances we squandered in this time, usually with a knock on.

60-70

So the 4th try was looking more difficult with each passing moment but even with that and even with the changing lineups and even with the errors which were continuing as an off target pass from went to ground only to be knocked on by Jamie Osborne, as the clock ticked over 67 minutes it at least looked like the victory was still a certain thing.

But from that attacking scrum at the 22 the Ospreys clicked back into their patterns of determined carrying and passing they got it to the line only to knock on but the officials noticed a high tackle by young Andrew Smith on the wing that connected with the head of Cross. The ref had no choice under the guidlines but to take out a card and since there was mitigation it was only yellow.

So with the visitors already playing with their tails up, this gave them an extra boost and straight from the lineout they attacked our line some more until Olly Cracknell was able to break away from a ruck and fall over the line under the posts. 19-10

70-FT

It was probably a time for territory rugby but I suppose Leinster have earned the right to feel we can score pretty much anytime and after a series of phases at midfield young Marcus Hanan found himself isolated after a carry which allowed opposition prop Garyn Phillips to get over the ball and win his side a penalty.

They kind of messed up things after the lineout but as Max O'Reilly tried to tidy it was his turn to lack the right protection and it was quickly stolen back from him just metres short of the line. From there they struck immediately as their strong centre Watkin crashed over with Venter adding the important extras. 19-17

Now things were going from bad to worse to disastrous for Leinster's patchwork 14. O'Reilly got himself smashed at halfway after the Ospreys' exit clearance but Leinster managed to recover and set up some phases.

This time were making the right decision to kick long but when it was passed to Harry around his own 22 he took way too long winding up which meant it was charged down by Josh Thomas and his efforts totally deserved the lucky bounce that took it away from O'Reilly allowing him to take it himself to the line to make it three converted tries for the Welsh region in under 10 minutes and now they were ahead. 19-24

Even at this stage, you wouldn't have batted an eyelid if we pulled a winning score out of the bag but when we had some phases soon after the restart, Harry Byrne tried to force a crossfield kick over to (the by now returned from the naughty step) Andrew Smith when it wasn't really on allowing a very grateful Cai Evans to take the mark.

The last chance saloon was when we had possession at midfield only for Dunne to bring it into contact and with their sub hooker Dewi Lake clamped onto the ball, neither Toner nor Bent could shift him, the penalty was called and that was that.

CONCLUSION

Obviously that was a more than disappointing end to the regular season for Leinster, and unlike last weekend there was no mitigation to be found by a megafan. However, in the grand scheme of things it's very easy to find positives.

First and foremost, the competition needs a succesful Ospreys team, and although the four-times champions have had some bad results in recent weeks, their post-Christmas form has been good enough for them to ensure they're back in Europe with this win sealing the deal. Full credit to Toby Booth and co for instilling his charges with the belief to get this done.

Then there's the long term benefits for us - the youngsters probably won't like being told this is an experience they can learn from, but it still very much is. With two and hopefully three weeks of season-defining knockout rugby to come, this result could help the coaching staff get our focus where it should be starting from the very kickoff back at that same RDS next Saturday. Here's hoping that's what happens. JLP

*****
We normally do a separate post featuring online comments from the full time whistle but due to the quick turnaround for the writeup we'll add a few here instead - many thanks to all who contributed as always!
Richard Mifsud Congratulations to Ospreys first off. Heads were down yet they found a way. From us the killer ‘complacency’ struck. Forget the late YC strange substitutions in the pack contributed to this. Was Scott Fardy injured? Why didn’t Seán O’Brien come back on? Why did Sheehan go to 8? All very strange. We thought we’d won it at 19-3 up with 15 to go, we were very sloppy in their 22, we made many mistakes in our own half and they got a sniff and took it. Clearly not the end of the world but everyone needs to learn from this and move on quickly. The most annoying thing is that this game was in the bag and we let it slip, which is the question Leo and Co. need to answer. Still, on to the final where I’m sure a different attitude will prevail.


Gerald Williamson Lack of experience went against Leinster in the second half plus the yellow card added by the Ospreys commitment to win decided the end result.


Conor Cronin Disappointing to finish the regular season by giving up a 16 point lead and losing. The game meant more to the ospreys chasing European rugby. Lots of learning for young lads who are chasing contracts, these games will stand to them.


Paul Smith Could see it coming. Fair play to Ospreys, they probably deserved the win in the end. The yellow card was harsh for me, and throwing young players on and playing others way out of position caught us out. At the end of the day, the result is immaterial for anything other than pride and at times uou learn more in defeat than facile victories so take ir, move on and fix it for next week when it matters.


Noel Hewson Fair play to the Ospreys they kept going and took their chances after the yellow card. Lots of learnings for the kids and some solid performances to be built on. The biggest part of the season lies ahead.


Brian Patrick Donnelly Today's newspaper is tomorrow's chip paper. Moving on already.


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Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019