In the opening and closing stages of this encounter Leinster looked like they were going to allow the result slip into the stiff Dublin breeze that held a steady influence on proceedings.
Leinster and Ospreys are the standard bearers of this competition having won four titles each, but despite the home team’s greater collective experience they looked nervy at either end of this game.
Having allowed Ospreys take a 3-0 lead, Leinster sparked into life when Sean Cronin found a gap before offloading to man-of-the-match Ben Te’o who supplied another one of the game’s top performers, Dan Leavy, for his second try in only his fifth senior start after 15 minutes.
By half-time Leinster led 16-3 and entering the final quarter held a 10-point advantage before Hayden Triggs switched off and allowed Dan Baker, the impressive Ospreys back row, to cut inside him and leave just three points in it after Sam Davies’ conversion.
Momentum swings came thick and fast and as Ian Madigan and Davies traded penalty kicks it looked like Ospreys might sneak yet another win at this ground, but each time Leinster looked rocked they rebounded. The fact Leinster’s pack, which finished the game had an average age of 24 and half of them had 15 caps or less, proved that character can overcome inexperience in tight situations.
“They battled back well, definitely,” said Leinster coach Leo Cullen. “We’d like to have a bit more of a, I don’t know what you want to describe it as, a killer instinct. When we had the Ospreys at 16-3 we needed to get another score and shut them out.”
Despite having 10 internationally capped players in their starting XV Leinster benefited most from the performances of three 21-year-olds in Garry Ringrose, Ross Molony and Leavy.
Te’o, who appears to be finding his groove in rugby union just as he prepares to depart for Worcester in the English Premiership, was a constant source of yards after the gainline but in his absence he feels Ringrose is ready to strike up an exciting partnership with Robbie Henshaw, who arrives from Connacht in the summer.
Te’o said of Ringrose: “He’s going very well. Garry always steps up when there’s a challenge in front of him, he’s quite a lean-looking guy but he’s very tough and he’s very confrontational. He showed his class again tonight.
“I’m very pleased they’ve (Leinster) picked up Henshaw. I know he’s got a good relationship with a lot of the guys. He’s what they need. He’s a world-class player.
“I can see a really good partnership for the future between himself and Garry.” Leinster, who lie just two points off Connacht at the top of the PRO12 table, now get a week off before two pivotal away games to Glasgow and then at the Sportsground. After that Munster (home), Edinburgh (home) and Ulster (away) all lie in wait.
Try: Leavy. Con: Madigan. Pens: Madigan (4).
Try: Baker. Con: Davies. Pens: Davies (3).
Z Kirchner; F McFadden, G Ringrose (N Reid 78), B Te’o, I Nacewa (capt); I Madigan, E Reddan (L McGrath 57); C Healy (P Dooley 46), S Cronin (R Strauss 43), M Ross (T Furlong 43); R Molony, M Kearney (H Triggs 51); R Ruddock (D Ryan 72), D Leavy, J Murphy.
D Evans (T Habberfield 55); J Hassler, J Matavesi (J Spratt 41), O Watkin, B John (T Grabham 16-25); S Davies, R Webb (capt); N Smith (G Thomas 51), S Parry (S Otten 55), D Arhip (M Fia 3-11, 51); T Ardron, R Thornton (A Beard 41, T Grabham 78), J King, O Cracknell (J Bearman 72), D Baker.
I Davies (WRU).