Leinster storm into last four


Leinster storm into last four

Ospreys had an outside chance of making the top four, while a win would guarantee Leinster a home semi-final. But there was never a hint of anything but the second eventuality occurring.

So instead you looked for the sub-plots.

There was scrum-half, Luke McGrath’s eye-catching first start as a late call-up for calf-strain victim, Isaac Boss, the solidity of untested props Jamie Hagan and Jack McGrath as well as Munster-bound Andrew Conway’s all-action efforts too.

Conway was magnificent and three tries were due reward for his contribution.

You know that Warren Gatland was focussed on one man though. Jonathan Sexton was playing his first game since pulling his hamstring against England last February.

The out-half damaged a tendon in his foot subsequently but there was no indication of any residual impact from the lay-off and with Sexton’s rude health imperative if the Lions are to topple Australia, Gatland was sure to be relieved.

Sexton began with a searing break on a loop around Fergus McFadden after just two minutes. He followed up with a deft chip that almost found Conway but the winger wasn’t to be denied too long, finishing McFadden’s chip ahead after just six minutes.

Sexton drove the conversion over from tight on the right into such a strong wind that the ball almost dropped vertically but he had a much easier kick 16 minutes later, when Conway finished off a move he had started himself, taking a pop-up pass from Luke McGrath to skate over.

Ospreys did finish well with two tries from Dan Biggar and Ben John but a Sexton penalty had them leading 17-12 at half time.

Conway had his hat-trick within a minute of the restart and it was a sensational score. He chipped past Ross Jones and outstripped his opponent almost humiliatingly. A flick with his foot stood the ball up and though it bounced awkwardly, he maintained his composure to spin 360 degrees before dotting down.

Sexton planted the conversion and another penalty.

To their credit, Ospreys battled away and Thomas Isaacs’ 72nd minute try was deserved.

Biggar nailed the conversion but Sexton took his tally to 12 from a 45m penalty.

Leinster concluded with a flourish as Cian Healy galloped over for a try after the flashing Conway had once again threatened and Ian Madigan added the points.

LEINSTER: R Kearney; A Conway, F McFadden, I Madigan; J Sexton, L McGrath; J McGrath, S Cronin, J Hagan; L Cullen, Q Roux; R Ruddock, S Jennings, S O’ Brien

Replacements: J Murphy for Jennings (58); J Cooney for L McGrath (62); C Healy for J McGrath (62); R Strauss for Cronin (62); M Bent for Hagan (68); D Toner for Cullen (68)

OSPREYS: R Fussell; T Habberfield, A Beck, B John, R Jones; D Biggar, R Webb; D Jones, S Baldwin, A Jones; AW Jones, J King; J Tipuric, S Lewis, J Bearman

Replacements: J Spratt for Webb inj (16); R Bevington for D Jones (47); T Isaacs for R Jones (57); D Arnhip for A Jones (59); A Morgan for Bearman (70); M Morgan for Fussell (71)

Referee: N Owens (Wales)

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