LEINSTER coach Joe Schmidt will take a ‘wait and see’ approach to the recurrence of Jamie Heaslip’s ankle injury ahead of their crucial Heineken Cup encounter with Saracens at the RDS next Saturday.
The accuracy of Jonathan Sexton and the inaccuracy of Dan Biggar were the dividing lines between winning and losing in Leinster’s 15-10 defeat of the Ospreys in the Magners League last night. It moved Leinster into second place, six points behind Munster, with Cardiff Blues holding a game in hand and the Scarlets, in fourth, still capable of overtaking them if they can win in Edinburgh tonight.
Sexton shot five from six, Biggar two from seven, including one shocker from straight in front of the posts, as coach Joe Schmidt admitted Leinster “lost a bit of rugby rhythm” due to the Player Welfare Programme.
“We did look pretty flat out there. In the contact area, I don’t think we were strong enough. They put it up to us.
It is something we will look at,” he said. It was a night both defences had to be on their best behaviour because it looked like one that would be decided by points kicked rather than tries converted.
Leinster knifed in from the side at a maul to concede three to Biggar in the second minute. No one could have foreseen his nightmare evening.
It was immediately wiped out by Sexton when Ryan Jones came through too quickly on Eoin Reddan at a ruck. Then, Sexton’s elegant use of the boot put Leinster in position. A lineout was stolen by Leo Cullen and, from there, it looked odds-on for the first try until Devin Toner was hauled down from behind by Biggar. Sexton’s penalty came as a consolation.
Referee Nigel Owens saw no need to call back Ospreys scrum-half Rhys Webb from a quickly taken penalty and it took Luke Fitzgerald’s tackle to shake the ball free.
From the scrum, Reddan was blocked and Ospreys captain Justin Tipuric was on hand to claim the try. Biggar’s two made it 10-6 in the 15th minute.
It was all the encouragement the visitors needed to keep ball. They were nearly in again from Biggar’s grubber, only for Shane Horgan to put Richard Fussell into touch. The danger was still present. It took a monster defensive scrum to force a penalty – it didn’t end there.
The Ospreys continuity looked sure to be rewarded. But Biggar whacked an unmissable penalty against the crossbar from around 15m out. The Ospreys’ big-ball carriers were brushing aside the tackles and the rain made it more difficult to get a hold of them. In addition, referee Owens did not pay due attention to the offside line, which was frustrating the home side. Eventually, Ospreys prop Duncan Jones was caught standing idle between the Leinster halfbacks.
Sexton cut the lead to a single point (10-9) on the half-time whistle. Leinster needed to restart quickly. They didn’t. Horgan held on too long on the floor and Biggar banged a difficult penalty off the upright. It was another let-off that Sexton would punish with a fine kick when the Ospreys refused to vacate the ruck area. Not for the first time, Owens spoke to Tipuric.
Leinster almost suffered the same fate when replacement Heinke van der Merwe stayed on the wrong side of a ruck. Biggar missed to the left. The difference in kicking proved the difference. Sexton was back for more when scrum-half Webb threw the ball into the crowd to prevent the quick throw. The outhalf struck from the left. Number eight Rhys Ruddock, scrum-half Isaac Boss, lock Nathan Hines and prop Van der Merwe showed the value of a sound bench by making a physical impact where previously there had not been the same presence in the battle.