Ospreys ruin Leinster's run
March 23, 2012
Richard Hibbard scored a crucial late try for the Ospreys
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Richard Hibbard scored the decisive try as the Ospreys brought Leinster's 20-match unbeaten run to an end with a gutsy 23-22 win on Friday night.
With only the RaboDirect PRO12 title left to aim for, the Welsh region showed superb grit and determination in a grandstand finish. Hibbard burrowed over in the right corner for a 77th minute try which needed confirmation from television match official Alan Rogan. The hooker's score made it a one-point game and Dan Biggar kicked the crucial match-winning conversion, with a kind bounce off the left hand upright.
Ian Madigan's opportunist try had given Leinster a decent 16-6 cushion at the break, with Fergus McFadden out-kicking Biggar. But McFadden could only add two more penalties to Leinster's tally as second half tries from George Stowers and Hibbard inspired the visitors' fightback.
The large Leinster crowd welcomed Brian O'Driscoll back from a shoulder injury, for his first outing since the Rugby World Cup. Captain Leo Cullen also returned from Achilles surgery to partner debutant Brad Thorn in the province's second row. The Ospreys had Wales' Grand Slam winners Alun Wyn Jones, Ryan Jones and Justin Tipuric in their starting line-up, but fell behind to a second minute penalty from McFadden.
O'Driscoll beat two defenders in his first involvement in attack, yet the Ospreys reacted smartly to an Andrew Bishop-led counter and their first visit to the 22 duly resulted in three points from Biggar. McFadden missed a chance to reply and the Ospreys, with only the league title left to aim for, competed ferociously to slow up Leinster ruck ball.
The hosts got on the front foot again, setting up a 21st minute penalty which McFadden landed and he then followed up with a terrific 51-metre effort for 9-3. A series of handling errors frustrated the Ospreys and Biggar sliced a kickable penalty to the right and wide, before Madigan caught them off guard.
Richardt Strauss' lineout throw was missed by Rhys Ruddock, but the alert Madigan broke onto the bouncing ball and scampered wide of Hanno Dirksen to grab his seventh try of the league campaign. McFadden's conversion was cancelled out by another Biggar penalty, reducing the margin to ten points, and the Ospreys built some momentum early in the second half.
After a fourth successful McFadden penalty, Richard Fussell countered brilliantly to set up a scrum in front of the Leinster posts, and Biggar split the posts from close range. Just a minute later, Webb set up an eye-catching charge down the right from Dirksen. He linked with the supporting Ashley Beck who passed out of the tackle for No.8 Stowers to finish off the move of the match.
Biggar added the extras to reduce the arrears to 19-16. Leinster reacted with a prolonged spell in the visitors' 22 during which Heinke van der Merwe was held up twice over the line. Thorn and O'Driscoll were withdrawn short of the hour mark, by which time McFadden had widened the margin to six points.
The Ospreys suffered a further setback when flanker Tipuric was very harshly sin-binned in the 62nd minute for what referee Peter Fitzgibbon deemed a dangerous tackle on Kevin McLaughlin. McFadden's resulting penalty fell short of the target and the Ospreys, using the platform of an Adam Jones-boosted scrum, had the better of the closing stages.
Man of the match Biggar and replacement Rhys Webb provided the direction and with numbers out wide, Hibbard scrambled over past a couple of despairing tackles.
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