Ross edges Leeds past error-prone Ospreys

Leeds 29 Neath-Swansea Ospreys 20
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The Independent Online

Gordon Ross got Leeds off to a winning start at Headingley on their Heineken Cup debut, with 19 points to his credit, in a game which promised much, but eventually failed to deliver as a piece of sporting entertainment.

If either of these sides are to qualify for the knock-out stages of the tournament they will need to work on their consistency and cohesion, not to mention concentration; all three of these attributes went missing after the interval when the game degenerated into a scrappy brawl and some kicking practice for Ross.

Not that Phil Davies, Leeds' director of rugby, was at all concerned about the dip in visual value after the interval, when the Tykes led 20-7. "Today was a landmark occasion for us," Davies said. "Four years ago we were playing in National One. Now we're in the top club competition in Europe, and happy to mark our debut with a win. As for the game itself, we had good structure in the first half, but didn't kick as well after the break, when they came at us. However, we're a young side, maturing nicely, and we know we will have to improve."

Aaron Persico began what looked like turning into a jamboree for the home side after a sustained period of Leeds pressure, with a try, which Ross converted. The Ospreys response was almost immediate. Shaun Connor made ground down the left flank, setting Shane Williams free for a spanking try. Connor tagged on the conversion so that, fleetingly at least, we were promised a competitive contest.

However, as the half unfolded, Leeds waxed stronger and it looked as if the Ospreys might be out of their depth. They were struggling to make any impression on the Leeds forwards, or contain the home backs once Ross set them moving. After two Ross penalties and a try by Andre Snyman, which Ross converted, Leeds were in control.

It stayed like that until Scott Gibbs replaced Dave Tiueti in the 47th minute. Gibbs was soon among the scorers, being the beneficiary of Nathan Bonner-Evans' drive from a scrum to claim a try. Connor converted and then dropped a goal to haul the Ospreys to within three points of the English club, and although Connor was to add a penalty before the close, Ross kicked three.

Although Leeds only once threatened the Ospreys' line in the second half, when David Rees had a try disallowed for a double movement, the foundations for victory were laid before the break when Phil Murphy, Persico and Wales' flanker, Alix Popham, were in the ascendancy. Snyman and Tristan Davies controlled the midfield, and there was always the threat of Ross's boot.

"You can't play in Europe and gift the opposition too many points," said the Ospreys' coach, Lyn Jones. "By conceding 20 points before the interval, it was too many to make up. We knocked-on 10 times in the first half and by making as many mistakes as we did, we didn't deserve to win."

Leeds: Tries Persico, Snyman; Conversions Ross 2; Penalties Ross 5. Ospreys: Tries S Williams, Gibbs; Conversions Connor 2; Penalty Connor; Drop Goal Connor.

Leeds: D Albanese; D Rees, A Snyman, T Davies, P Christophers (D Scarbrough 58); G Ross, C Stuart-Smith; M Shelley (capt), M Regan (M Holt 79), G Powell, S Hooper, P Murphy, A Persico, J Ponton (C Rigney 59), A Popham.

Ospreys: A Durston; S Terblanche, J Storey, D Tueti (S Gibbs 47), S Williams; S Connor, A Williams; A Millward, B Williams, A Jones, A Newman, G Llewellyn (capt), J Thomas, G Thomas, N Bonner-Evans.

Referee: G Davies (Scotland)