Leinster punish weak Ospreys

FOR Leinster, it was a welcome return to their spiritual home in the tidy surrounds of Donnybrook.

The Ospreys, minds focused on their must win game Heineken Cup game against Stade Francais next week, arrived in Dublin 4 without some of their top players and paid for their complacency.

In the process of scoring six tries and picking up a bonus point, Leinster closed the gap on leaders Ulster and they are now just two points adrift.

Apart from the odd blip, this was a quality Leinster performance, highlighted by some brilliant individual skill and two outstanding tries. One of them came from the excellent Rob Kearney, filling in for the injured Girvan Dempsey at full-back, and, not surprisingly, the other from Brian O’Driscoll.

Leinster coach Michael Cheika admitted Dempsey is unlikely to recover in time for the Heineken Cup clash with Edinburgh next weekend, but Kearney’s form and enthusiasm was a major bonus for the Australian boss.

Cheika wouldn’t have expected any less from O’Driscoll when he waltzed in for a fantastic second try, but the icing on the cake came when Kearney, taking a leaf out of his captain’s book, danced his way through several defenders midway through the first- half for a smashing try.

Cheika was disappointed the Ospreys did not travel with a full side, but he certainly had no complaints with the result.

“Maybe we could have been a bit more clinical; we probably left them partially back into the contest in the last quarter when we should have closed them out; we weren’t ruthless enough in those last 20 and gave them some soft points. Still, it wasn’t a bad result when you win by three clear scores; we have no serious injuries and that has to be a fairly good situation.”

Even though Cheika loved the atmosphere at Lansdowne Road in front of a capacity attendance against Ulster last week, the return to Donnybrook was also welcome. “It’s been a while since the boys played here; it’s good to be back and nice to savour the atmosphere.”

The Ospreys took the lead after four minutes when Shaun Connor kicked a penalty, but Felipe Contepomi, back in the team for his first start after injury, equalised before Brent Cockbain got in for the opening try of the evening.

Leinster recovered from that and took the lead with tries from Kearney and O’Driscoll, both of them converted by Contepomi, to establish a 17-8 half time lead.

Denis Hickie scored another fine Leinster try eight minutes into the second half and the Argentinean converted before Kearney was sent away by O’Driscoll for the fourth try that gave Leinster the bonus point. Contepomi converted for a 31-8 lead.

O’Driscoll departed seconds after scoring another magnificent try and Contepomi’s conversion gave Leinster a huge 38-8 advantage.

But the home took their foot off the pedal and leaked tries to Stefan Terblanche and Richie Pugh, both converted by Connor. Happily, Leinster did have the last say when Keith Gleeson ploughed over and substitute Jonathon Sexton added the extra points.

Cheika confirmed Dempsey is unlikely to play next weekend: “It’s not looking good at the minute,” he said, but the coach was rightly delighted with Kearney’s form: “He is getting better by the week and is really playing with a lot of confidence. He is working hard on aspects of his game; he has worked hard on his kicking game and has progressed a lot in recent times,” said Cheika.

Dempsey hasn’t trained in the last two weeks and today is D-day from his point of view: “We have deliberately not asked him to try out the injured ankle; he will be given a chance to test it out Monday and if he’s not ready then he won’t play.”

LEINSTER: Kearney, Lewis, O’Driscoll, D’Arcy, Hickie, Contepomi, Whitaker, Wright, Jackman, Green, Jowitt, O’Kelly, Keogh, Gleeson, Heaslip, Hogan.

Replacements: McCarron for O’Driscoll (59), Easterby for Whitaker (49), Corrigan for Wright (49), Vermaas for Jackman (37), Hogan for Keogh (31), Finegan for Hogan (50).

OSPREYS: Terblanche, Mustoe, Selley, A. Bishop, Vaughton, Connor, Roberts, James, Shervington, Millward, Cockbain, Powell, Beech, Pugh, Lloyd, Walker.

Replacements: Walker for Vaughton (21), Spice for Roberts (56), B. Williams for Shervington (56), A. Jones for Millward (56), Lewis for Cockbain (74), Martenko for Pugh (74), Hook for Walker (69).

Referee: David Changleng (Scotland).

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