Munster set up Leinster showdown
May 14, 2011
Centre Danny Barnes grabbed two tries as Munster set up a Magners League Grand Final date with Leinster
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Munster set up an all-Ireland Magners League Grand Final showdown against Leinster with an 18-6 victory over the Ospreys in their play-off semi-final at Thomond Park.
Two tries from centre Danny Barnes propelled the hosts to a deserved victory - their fourth win in five meetings with the Ospreys this season - and ensured they will play host to this season's finale against their fierce Irish rivals who beat Ulster in Friday night's first semi-final.
Barnes' first senior try for the Irish province helped them lead 8-3 after totally dominating the first half at a sparsely-populated Thomond Park and his second after the break put them on course for victory. The Ospreys battled bravely and the boot of Dan Biggar kept the Welsh region in the contest before a 79th minute try from Richard Fussell raised hopes of a late turnaround. But the defending champions eventually came up short and could have little complaint about the result.
Munster topped the table with a record 19 wins in 22 games and fielded a strong starting line-up, with the 21-year-old Barnes given a chance to shine at outside centre. The Ospreys, who brought Huw Bennett and Ian Gough back into their pack, were hoping for a repeat of their 15-11 league win in Limerick last year.
The men in red showed their intent in the opening five minutes and it took a well-timed tackle from Fussell to halt Keith Earls close to the try-line. Munster coughed up lineout possession, allowing the Ospreys to bring play into the hosts' 22 and James Hook should have done better with a drop goal attempt. Paul James was then penalised for a scrum infringement and back chat brought an inviting penalty kick even closer for Ronan O'Gara to claim the opening points.
Munster repeatedly got over the gain-line and kept the visitors on the defensive, the fast-breaking Lifeimi Mafi taking the wrong option when electing to pass with the line in his sight. O'Gara struck a post with a right-sided penalty and while the one-way traffic continued, with Felix Jones, Barnes and Doug Howlett profiting from the hard graft of the forwards, Munster's attacks were a little too predictable.
They turned down a close range shot at the posts and the Ospreys, with Adam Jones and Alun Wyn Jones quickly in, managed to disrupt the maul and win a relieving penalty. But the pressure eventually told in the 32nd minute when a neat necklace of passes between Earls, Howlett and Jones sent Barnes scampering over to the right of the posts. O'Gara failed with his conversion attempt.
A good surge from prop James, over the halfway line, drew a penalty which Biggar threaded through the posts from distance for an 8-3 scoreline. It was a much-needed score for the Ospreys, who lost Hook to a shoulder injury.
The five-point margin remained in place for half-time as David Wallace was held up over the line in injury time, a combination of Biggar, Rhys Webb and Ryan Jones doing the necessary for the Ospreys. The Welsh region were on the back foot again when the second half resumed, O'Gara misjudging a long range penalty before the Ospreys were reduced to 14 men.
After repeated team warnings, replacement hooker Richard Hibbard received a yellow card for an illegal entry at a ruck and O'Gara duly added the three points to Munster's tally. Biggar thumped over his second penalty, punishing Damien Varley for a ruck offence, before Munster landed a telling blow in the form of Barnes' 57th-minute try.
The Tralee youngster charged down Fussell's attempted clearance and collected the bouncing ball to sprint in behind the posts. O'Gara's conversion gave Munster some breathing space at 18-6. Fussell redeemed himself when dislodging the ball as Wallace drove towards the posts, and Tommy Bowe had to be on his toes to deny Howlett's chip and chase effort.
As this largely forgettable encounter became looser and looser, the Ospreys looked more potent and Biggar's grubber kick was dotted down by Fussell in the left corner. Biggar could not add the extras and the Ospreys, despite enjoying a long spell of possession in injury time, were unable to unlock the Munster defence again.
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