RaboDirect Pro12: Three talking points as Ospreys beat Leinster
RaboDirect Pro12: Three talking points as Ospreys are 25-19 winners against Leinster on Friday night
Biggar kick-starts Ospreys final push
Last week’s defeat to rivals Glasgow had dented the Ospreys’ play-off hopes, but the four-time Celtic League winners clawed their way back into contention as Wales outside-half Dan Biggar’s kicking proved the difference in a 25-19 win over reigning champions and current Pro12 leaders Leinster. It was the fourth time the league’s two most successful clubs had met this season and saw the Welsh region win for the first time, which was also their first win over a top four side and ended an eight-game winning streak in the league for the Dublin-based side. Biggar’s 20 points included five successful penalties and one successful drop-goal attempt, but his tally could have been far greater had his accuracy been better. It was deserved win for Steve Tandy’s side and could be the pivotal result ahead of the final four weeks of the regular season. The Ospreys finish their campaign against Dragons at the Millennium Stadium next Sunday, before a trip to bottom side Zebre and ending with Connacht at home, who were hammered 58-12 by Ulster in their last outing, while the current top four clubs have to play each other. There will be a belief in Ospreylia that they can sneak into the top four and won’t be daunted by a potential away semi-final against one of the Irish provinces as Friday night’s committed display showed, but as with recent defeats to Glasgow, Munster and Edinburgh they were guilty of keeping their opponents in the match.
Week to forget for Leinster
Back-to-back defeats for Leinster is a rare thing and there is no doubt that a second defeat in five days was a blow to Matt O’Connor and his side as they look to secure a home semi-final in the Pro12. Perhaps a fierce league match so soon after a bruising defeat to Toulon’s powerful all-stars on Sunday was too much to recover from against an Ospreys side who had an extra week to prepare for the encounter. A losing bonus from an ill-disciplined encounter was a minor consolation from a scrappy affair which yielded very few chances for either backline as loosehead prop Cian Healy finished off a catch and drive for their only try with outside-half Jimmy Gopperth kicking 14 points, but it will keep them top for another week even if Munster pick up five points from their encounter with fourth-placed Glasgow Warriors on Saturday evening. Home matches against Benetton Treviso and Edinburgh in their final three matches would expect to yield wins which should be enough for the Irish province, but a tricky interprovincial trip to a revamped Ravenhill against Ulster on 2 May could be a decider.
aker rises to the challenge
Ospreys number 8 Dan Baker was the stand-out player with a man of the match performance at the Liberty Stadium and, as his stock continues to rise, he would be a very good shout to make Warren Gatland’s summer squad for Wales’ tour to South Africa. The former Swansea forward made his senior international debut in last summer’s series defeat in Japan, but has not featured since. The 21-year-old won’t displace Newport Gwent Dragons powerhouse Taulupe Faletau as the first-choice number 8 and is far from the finished product, but he has shown he can be a very able deputy with another impressive running display against Leinster and his work at the breakdown can help Wales in defence. There aren’t many options as back-ups to Faletau in Welsh rugby. Versatile former Wales captain and Bristol-bound Ospreys forward Ryan Jones can play at 8 but, at 33 and blighted by injuries, his international playing days seem numbered and Baker should get the nod over regional team-mate Morgan Allen and Scarlets’ Rob McCusker with Cardiff Blues’ South Africa-born number 8 Andries Pretorius as his likeliest rival.