Felipe Contepomi bounced back from his out-of-sorts performance against Munster to fire Leinster to a vital 38-21 win against the Ospreys in the Celtic League.
CELTIC LEAGUE: Saturday, April 29
LEINSTER 38 OSPREYS 21, Lansdowne Road (Att: 6,455)
Scorers: Leinster: Tries: Guy Easterby 2, Felipe Contepomi, Jamie Heaslip, Niall Ronan; Cons: Contepomi 2; Pens: Contepomi 3
Ospreys: Tries: Jonny Vaughton, Gavin Henson; Con: Henson; Pens: Henson 3
The Argentinian out-half returned to Lansdowne Road, the scene of the Heineken Cup semi-final defeat by Munster, to score 18 points and help Leinster back to the top of the table. They lead Ulster by four points.
Contepomi and his halfback partner Guy Easterby (2) shared out three tries, whilst back rows Jamie Heaslip and Niall Ronan also got off the mark in Leinster's final home game of the season.
The Ospreys, who lived off scraps, bagged two late consolation tries through replacement winger Jonny Vaughton and centre Gavin Henson, who also kicked three penalties and a conversion.
It took a while for Leinster to settle as Henson kicked the visitors into an early 6-3 lead. The 2005 Lion, who came in for some notable treatment from the home crowd, missed his opening kick at goal but landed efforts on 11 and 13 minutes in reply to Contepomi's initial success.
But with little to play for, the Ospreys were always up against, especially with Michael Cheika's hosts still smarting from their Heineken Cup woe.
A move straight off the training ground saw Easterby romp over for his first try after 19 minutes. From a Malcolm O'Kelly lineout take, Easterby looped around Contepomi and went on 35 metre run-in to the line with only Henson attempting to tackle the Irish international.
Contepomi converted, taking his tally at Leinster through the 500-point barrier (502), and right on 40 minutes, the Puma star handed off his opposite number Matthew Jones to grab Leinster's second try. Contepomi added an injury-time penalty to his conversion for a 20-6 lead at half time.
Two minutes after the restart, Henson kicked his third penalty for the Ospreys, whose dismal away form has seen them lose six of their last seven games away from the Liberty Stadium.
But any hopes they had of racking up their fifth straight win against Leinster were soon put to bed. After hooker Bernard Jackman had been held up short, Contepomi added a penalty before number 8 Heaslip dummied and sent Easterby scurrying down the left wing for his second and a 28-9 buffer for the province.
Jonathan Thomas, who had switched to number 8, swapped passes with Jason Spice off a close-in scrum for Vaughton to score. However, Heaslip (69 minutes) and replacement Ronan (80) chalked up Leinster's bonus point to put the province out of sight.
There was still time for Henson to pirouette over in injury-time, but the night belonged to Leinster and in particular, soon-to-be retired flanker Eric Miller, who got a standing ovation from an appreciative crowd at the end. The game also marked 100th caps for O'Kelly and Shane Horgan.
TIME LINE: 9 minutes - Leinster penalty: Felipe Contepomi - 3-0; 13 mins - Ospreys penalty: Gavin Henson - 3-3; 17 mins - Ospreys penalty: Gavin Henson - 3-6; 19 mins - Leinster try: Guy Easterby - 8-6; conversion: Felipe Contepomi - 10-6; 40 mins - Leinster try: Felipe Contepomi - 15-6; conversion: Felipe Contepomi - 17-6; 40+4 mins - Leinster penalty: Felipe Contepomi - 20-6; Half-time - Leinster 20 Ospreys 6; 43 mins - Ospreys penalty: Gavin Henson - 20-9; 55 mins - Leinster penalty: Felipe Contepomi - 23-9; 62 mins - Leinster try: Guy Easterby - 28-9; conversion: missed by Felipe Contepomi - 28-9; 66 mins - Ospreys try: Jonny Vaughton - 28-14; conversion: missed by Gavin Henson - 28-14; 69 mins - Leinster try: Jamie Heaslip - 33-14; conversion: missed by Felipe Contepomi - 33-14; 80 mins - Leinster try: Niall Ronan - 38-14; 80+4 mins - Ospreys try: Gavin Henson - 38-19; conversion: Gavin Henson - 38-21; Full-time - Leinster 38 Ospreys 21
LEINSTER: Girvan Dempsey; Shane Horgan, Kieran Lewis, Gordon D'Arcy, Denis Hickie; Felipe Contepomi (capt), Guy Easterby; Ronan McCormack, Bernard Jackman, Will Green, Adam Byrnes, Malcolm O'Kelly, Eric Miller, Keith Gleeson, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements used: Ben Gissing for Byrnes (52 mins), Brian Blaney for Jackman (67), Rob Kearney for Horgan (69), Niall Ronan for Heaslip (72), John Hepworth for Contepomi (76), Emmett Byrne for Green (77), Brian O'Meara for Easterby (80+1).
OSPREYS: Stefan Terblanche; Richard Mustoe, Sonny Parker, Gavin Henson, Damien Karauna; Matthew Jones, Jason Spice; Duncan Jones (capt), Huw Bennett, Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones, Ian Evans, James Bater, Jonathan Thomas, Andy Lloyd.
Replacements used: Jonny Vaughton for Terblanche (48 mins), Richie Pugh for Lloyd, Richard Hibbard for Bennett (both 67), Andrew Bishop for M Jones, Martin Roberts for Spice (both 76), Cai Griffiths for Adam Jones (78), Lyndon Bateman for Bater (80+2)
Referee: David Changleng (Scotland)