Heineken Cup Pool 1: Leinster hold off Ospreys in opener
Last Updated: 13/10/13 12:21pm
Three-time former champions Leinster put on a ruthlessly efficient display in claiming a 19-9 victory at Ospreys in their Heineken Cup opener.
Sean O'Brien scored the only try of the match midway through the first half and Jimmy Gopperth knocked over five kicks from five attempts for the visitors.
Ospreys could only manage three penalties from Dan Biggar in reply as they foundered time and again on Leinster's rock-solid defence, while Gopperth's fourth penalty a minute from time even denied them a losing bonus point.
It had all started so promisingly for the hosts as a fast start gave them a 6-3 lead courtesy of two Biggar penalties, with Gopperth knocking over one of his own for the visitors.
But their performance unravelled when they spurned a golden opportunity 25 minutes in.
After indecision from scrum-half Tito Tebaldi the ball made its way to Richard Hibbard on the right flank and with two men outside him, the hooker attempted to barge over but was held up short.
The Ospreys were still awarded a penalty and opted for a scrum having had the better of the set-piece battle, and with Leinster's Ireland tighthead Mike Ross off the field due to a apparent hamstring problem.
But Leinster wheeled and drove their opponents back to win a vital penalty, and they were soon ahead.
Jamie Heaslip stripped Andrew Bishop of the ball in midfield and set off up field. Rob Kearney took the attack on before Sean Cronin did what opposite number Hibbard could not and found a pass to allow O'Brien to power over, with Gopperth converting.
The former Newcastle man cemented the Irish side's lead with a long-range penalty and the visitors led 13-6 at the break.
Biggar trimmed the lead shortly after the resumption, but scrum-half Tebaldi quickly allowed Gopperth to cancel out the three points after his ill-advised tap-and-go from a penalty saw the ball go loose and the Ospreys ended up under all manner of pressure in their own 22.
Leinster were firmly on top at the breakdown and the pressure they exerted in that area led their Welsh hosts to make costly mistakes.
Knock-ons from Alun Wyn Jones and Biggar wasted attacking situations, and even when Justin Tipuric put replacement Jeff Hassler free down the right, Gopperth proved up to the task of dumping the winger into touch.
And in almost the last act of he contest, the fly-half stepped up to deny the Ospreys a losing bonus point with a penalty from directly in front of the posts.