The Ospreys fought bravely against a strong Munster side but it was the Irish who took the spoils at the Liberty Stadium to complete a PRO12 double over the hosts.
Ashley Beck touched down for the Ospreys in reply to Sean Dougall’s pushover try for the opponents in the first half, before Simon Zebo scored from a break-away for the visitors early in the second half. James Downey crossed for a late score to deny the hosts even a losing bonus point after Scott Baldwin had a try ruled out by the TMO.
It was the visitors who were looking the most likely to score in the opening exchanges, turning down two opportunities at three points in favour of kicking to the corner. Their bravery paid off as the Ospreys found the driving maul difficult to deal with and the Munster pack powered over with Sean Dougall the player touching down inside five minutes. Ian Keatley converted from the touchline.
Aisea Natoga continued from where he left off in the previous game against Treviso, running at defenders and getting his arms free to send Ashley Beck running into the Munster twenty-two. A minute later, the Fijian fielded the ball in his own half and a cheeky chip and chase saw him gallop down the wing but Munster had enough defenders to quash his threat.
Munster extended their lead after withstanding the Ospreys attack as Keatley slotted a penalty on the twenty-two metre line following a strong scrum from the Irishmen. Almost immediately after, Sam Davies cancelled the penalty out with a three pointer of his own.
Most of the rugby was being played in the middle of the pitch with neither side threatening too much at this stage. Keatley was provided with another penalty attempt after the Ospreys went off their feet at the breakdown and the outside-half restored Munster’s ten point lead.
Munster broke away after Andrew Conway beat Davies to a high ball. Jonathan Spratt almost came away with an interception as Conway floated a pass wide. Simon Zebo came up with the ball and almost slipped through a tackle but James Cronin was in support. The visitors recycled the ball quickly and Keatley looked for the crosskick but the number ten just overcooked it.
After a spell of Ospreys possession, Davies had another chance at goal. The crowd cheered as the ball looked to be sailing over but the fullback’s kick struck the post. James Coughlan collected the loose ball and found a gap in the Ospreys defence. Cronin was again in support but the Ospreys managed to get enough defenders back to stop the attack.
The Ospreys patience paid off as Ashley Beck crossed for a try just before half-time. Duncan Jones carried hard at the red jersey’s in front of him, putting his team on the front foot. BJ Botha made a nuisance of himself at the breakdown but Tom Habberfield still got the ball away to Beck. The centre found himself with defenders in front of him but he managed to shrug them off before putting his head down, riding the tackle of Felix Jones and touching down to score. Davies missed the conversion.
With the ball in hand, the Ospreys were looking confident and were soon provided with another kick at goal on the stroke of half-time after several Munster defenders were caught napping in an offside position but Davies couldn’t reduce the deficit.
HALF TIME: Ospreys 8 Munster 13.
It was Munster who struck first in the second half against the run of play thanks to a Simon Zebo breakaway try. The Ospreys has begun the half in patient fashion, going through the phases and the visitors were having to soak up the pressure. At the bottom of a ruck deep in Munster territory, however, the ball spilled loose and Zebo was on hand to scoop it up and race down the touchline unopposed to score an easy try. Keatley missed the conversion.
With a ten point lead in the favour of Munster, the Irish were happy to pin the Ospreys back in their twenty-two with Keatley and Zebo putting in fine territorial kicks behind the wall of black jersey’s. Duncan Casey almost crossed the whitewash as the Ospreys lineout was overthrown but Joe Bearman kept the hooker out.
As the Ospreys looked for a way back into the match, they sent on Hanno Dirksen for his 50th regional appearance, along with Richard Fussell, in the hope that they would make an impact. Davies pinned Munster back with a nicely placed grubber and the Ospreys stole the resulting lineout.
Natoga ran hard at the Munster half-backs and almost broke through but the winger was stopped. The ball was recycled quickly and came to Scott Baldwin who powered into defenders who tried to drag him down short but the hooker dotted down. The try was ruled out by the TMO who ruled that Baldwin had crawled over the line after being tackled.
The Ospreys remained on the hunt for a try and made camp in the Munster half. James King spotted a gap between two defenders and put his head down. The second row looked like he could get through but he was just dragged down. With a penalty in their facvour, Jonathan Spratt and his men had to settle for three points and Davies, now in the outside-half position following Morgan’s exit, slotted it.
Munster hit back immediately and grabbed their third try of the match through James Downey. Replacement JJ Hanrahan sliced through the Ospreys defence with ease and had Downey on his shoulder who rode the challenge of Natoga to touch down beneath the sticks. The creator, Hanrahan added the two points.
This put the Ospreys outside the losing bonus point range so the home team kicked to the corner to try and find their second try. Munster managed to pinch the throw and Duncan Williams relieved the pressure.
The Ospreys were back in their opponents twenty-two on the hunt for a try in the closing minutes and almost got it, and with it a bonus point, through Natoga. Fussell cut a strong angle off the shoulder of Davies and the replacement fullback managed to get his arms free. The Fijian, Natoga, looked certain to score in the corner but the winger spilt the ball forward as he tried to get over the line.
The Ospreys soon found themselves reduced to 14 men for the final 90 seconds or so when, after a series of scrums, Ryan Jones was the man sent to the sin bin following some back-chat after his team has been penalised at the scrum, a decision which the crowd were also unhappy with. However, the card had no impact on the game as the final whistle went shortly afterwards.