LEINSTER SECURED THEIR place in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals, but they made hard work of 14-man Ospreys at the RDS.
The game as a contest was all but ended after 20 minutes when Welsh international lock Ian Evans was red carded for stamping on the head of Mike McCarthy as the former Connacht man lay beneath a maul.
At that stage,the scoreboard read three points apiece, but the hosts would eventually use the extra man to push over five tries – two of which came as penalty tries off clinical mauls.
Leinster, needing just a point to seal qualification for the last eight, stormed out onto the front foot in the first quarter. But against their bogey side, Ospreys, there was just a hint of panic about some of their early moves, and errors prevented them from building pressure on the visitors.
The red card would force Ospreys into a spoiling game for 60 minutes and they did cope relatively well in open play and it was only a 33rd minute rolling maul that edged Leinster ahead on the scoreboard as well as the player count.
The blues swept back before half time and the power of Cian Healy threatened to open the floodgates, but the 17 – 3 half time score would stand until past the hour mark.
There was nothing pretty about the game, or Leinster’s performance, but it was a case of quietly getting the job done. From a long way out, that job was a bonus point win and a second penalty try courtesy of another fluid maul put them within one score of that mark.
In a match short on inspiration, the sight of Richardt Strauss returning so quickly after heart surgery made for a true highlight, not just of the game, but of the year.
The Ireland international arrived into the game with only finishing touches missing from the job and they were duly applied by Jordi Murphy (sprung in and out of a game littered with blood-bins) and finally Isaac Boss, grounding the fifth try to secure five points from a scrappy game that few will remember for much other than Strauss’ return.
Tries: Penalty try (2), C Healy, J Murphy, I Boss.
Pen: J Gopperth.
Conv: J Gopperth (4)
Pen: D Biggar.
Leinster: R Kearney (Z Kirchner); D Kearney, B O’Driscoll, G D’Arcy (I Madigan), L Fitzgerald; J Gopperth, E Reddan (I Boss,); C Healy (J McGrath), S Cronin (R Strauss), M Moore (M Ross); D Toner, M McCarthy (L Cullen); R Ruddock, S Jennings (J Murphy), J Heaslip .
Ospreys: S Davies ; J Hassler, J Spratt, B John ( M Morgan), A Natoga; D Biggar, R Webb (T Habberfield); R Bevington, R Hibbard (S Baldwin (M Thomas ’52)) , A Jones (D Suter); AW Jones, I Evans; T Ardron (J King), J Tipuric, R Jones.