‘Reality check’ for Leinster ahead of huge Saracens test

OSPREYS 32 LEINSTER 18: Leinster limped back into Dublin late on Saturday night having fluffed their lines in their dress-rehearsal for the Champions Cup quarter-final with Saracens and licking their wounds after a mauling by the Ospreys.

‘Reality check’ for Leinster ahead of huge Saracens test

Fergus McFadden and Noel Reid will have to undergo the back to play protocols after leaving the field with head knocks in the 32-18 defeat at the Liberty Stadium, while Dave Kearney will be treated for a left shoulder injury that restricted his game time to a mere 11 minutes in a physical tussle against the Welsh region.

Victory would have secured qualification for the Guinness PRO14 play-offs with three games to play for Le Cullen’s men, but there shouldn’t be any problem in holding onto their three point lead at the top of Conference B with home games against the Italian duo of Benetton Rugby and Zebre followed by a trip to Galway to meet Connacht.

The Ospreys defeat, only their fourth of the season and their second this year, was in the words of Cullen “a reality check”.

He continued: “There were a few head knocks and we will look to get them back into things via the graduated return to play policy. Dave Kearney took a bang to his shoulder and was in a degree of discomfort, so we will have to see how he comes through.

“It was a bit of a reality check for some of our guys because it was a tough, physical contest. We came off second best in too many of those contact areas. It definitely gave us a good grounding ahead of next week and showed us the level we need to get to. We saw Ospreys play against Saracens in the Champions Cup in the drawn game at the Liberty and we know Saracens are going to be another physical team. We watched a little bit of their game against Quins and it is going to be a great challenge for our players to get back to that level. There is a hell of a lot at stake next week.”

The Ospreys made the most of the disruption caused by the injuries in the Leinster backline – Jamison Gibson-Park ended up playing at full back for 46 minutes with Joey Carbery moving up to centre - as they plundered three tries to move into a 19-3 lead to seemingly leave Leinster all at sea just before the break.

But then Adam Byrne outjumped Alun Wyn Jones at the re-start to regain possession for Leinster in the last play of the first half and a neat kick through by Carbery enabled Barry Daly to throw his side a lifeline with a try.

There may have been brief thoughts of a revival in the dressing room at half-time, but the irrepressible Justin Tipuric picked up the bonus-point try nine minutes after the break as he popped up a metre out to take a pass from Keiron Fonotia. Dan Biggar added the extras to stretch the lead to 18 points.

Leinster needed to score next and a neat kick through from a driving maul 10 metres out by Luke McGrath allowed Rory O’Loughlin to race onto it and score a try that Carberry converted. Then the full back-turned-centre stepped up to kick a penalty to give his side a sniff of a comeback with 20 minutes to go. That hope didn’t last long, though, as Biggar kicked a penalty for hands at the breakdown to stretch the gap to 11 points. He also kicked another with the final act of the game.

Scorers for Ospreys: 

Tries: D Evans (13, 25), T Habberfield (38), J Tipuric (49); Cons: D Biggar 3; Pens: D Biggar 2.

Scorers for Leinster:

Tries: B Daly (40), R O’Loughlin (53); Con: J Carberry; Pens: R Byrne, J Carberry.

OSPREYS: D Evans; J Hassler, K Fonotia, A Beck (O Watkin 58), H Dirksen; D Biggar, T Habberfield (M Aubrey 64); N Smith (R Jones 61), S Otten, D Arhip (M Fia 61), B Davies, AW Jones (capt), O Cracknell (R McCusker 11, A Beard 67), J Tipuric, S Cross Reps Unused: I Phillips, S Davies

LEINSTER: J Carbery; F McFadden (A Byrne 16), R O’Loughlin, N Reid (D Kearney 23, J Gibson-Park 34), B Daly; R Byrne, L McGrath (captain); J McGrath (E Byrne 46), S Cronin (J Tracy 50), A Porter (M Bent 50), R Molony, S Fardy, J Murphy (M Deegan 54), J Murphy, J Conan (I Nagle 64).

Referee: John Lacey (Ireland).

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