Powerful Munster down Ospreys to go top
January 9, 2009
Munster scrum-half Tomas O'Leary scored the winning try at the Liberty Stadium
© Getty Images
A huge forwards effort from Munster and tries from Lifiemi Mafi and Tomas O'Leary saw off the challenge of the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium and sent the Irish giants top of the Magners League once again.
Expectations were high for the home side, who welcomed Shane Williams back to the wing after a shoulder injury. Munster fielded a monstrous pack, with Paul O'Connell leading a side shorn of Ronan O'Gara, the Ireland fly-half missing out with a shoulder injury.
After a scrappy opening set of exchanges, Munster slipped through the gears after only three minutes with Ian Dowling straightening well in midfield before swapping passes with Barry Murphy. As the red line swarmed forward in support, Lifiemi Mafi took the scoring pass after the Munster back-row provided quick ball for scrum-half Tomas O'Leary, diving full length to cross in the corner.
The Ospreys struck back with a penalty on six minutes from James Hook after David Wallace strayed offside at a ruck. After Munster had restored their five-point cushion through a Paul Warwick penalty, Ospreys centre Andrew Bishop provided the first moment for the home crowd to cheer as he broke two tackles before chipping in behind the Munster defence. Some excellent cover defence by Doug Howlett saw off the danger.
Hook reduced the arrears further with a sweetly struck penalty on 20 minutes, before the Ospreys finally began to get their runners into the game. Some fine work from Mike Phillips and Hook injected some pace into proceedings, only for Filo Tiatia to give away a further three points to Warwick and Munster with a foolish push in a lineout.
Jonny Vaughton had a try disallowed for the home side on half an hour after his foot slipped into touch following a superb cover-tackle from O'Leary, and as the Ospreys looked to turn the screw with more excellent running from Bishop the Munster defence held firm.
Munster lost Warwick to a facial injury before Hook slotted his third penalty to make the score 9-11 as the Ospreys left the field in the ascendancy at half-time.
Two penalties from Hook edged the Ospreys ahead after the break, before Warwick's replacement Conan Doyle slotted one of his own to make the score 15-14 to the home side.
On 50 minutes a trademark break from Shane Williams sent the Ospreys haring into Munster territory, with Hook providing fine support. As the Ospreys pack poured forward, Dowling grabbed the ball from the ruck and earned himself a yellow card and three more points for Hook.
It was 14 men apiece five minutes later, as the Ospreys lost Steve Tandy to the sin bin for an identical offence in front of the Ospreys posts. Doyle's second penalty drew the visitors back to within a point.
After some strong and patient phase play from the Munster eight, Mafi turned provider as he took on Phillips close to the Ospreys line before popping the ball to O'Leary, who crashed over to score.
Doyle was withdrawn soon after, with Peter Stringer slotting in at scrum-half and O'Leary moving to No.10, and it was he who sent Munster further in front with a penalty on 65 minutes.
Hook slotted another penalty to bring his side back to within four points, but the Munster forwards began to come into the ascendancy as the half wore on. The Ospreys lineout in particular came under pressure from Paul O'Connell and Donncha O'Callaghan.
With under a minute left to play, Hook sent a perfect kick into the corner after Munster had been penalised on halfway. With the ball secured, the Ospreys looked for the killer score only for Tiatia to knock on, handing the win and top spot in the league to Munster.
Ospreys: Lee Byrne; Jonny Vaughton, Sonny Parker, Andrew Bishop, Shane Williams; James Hook, Mike Phillips; Paul James (capt), Richard Hibbard, Cai Griffiths, Alun Wyn Jones, Jonathan Thomas, Tom Smith, Steve Tandy, Filo Tiatia.
Replacements: Huw Bennett for Hibbard (56), Ryan Bevington, Lyndon Bateman for Thomas (70), Marty Holah for Tandy (76), Rhys Webb, Dan Biggar for Parker (45), Kristian Phillips.
Munster: D Hurley; D Howlett, B Murphy, L Mafi, I Dowling; P Warwick, T O'Leary; F Pucciariello, J Flannery, J Hayes; D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell capt; A Quinlan, D Wallace, D Leamy.
Replacements: D Fogarty, T Ryan for Pucciariello (74), M O'Driscoll for Quinlan (60), J O'Sullivan for Leamy (58), P Stringer for Doyle (72), C Doyle for Warwick (38), T Gleeson.
Ref: Andy Macpherson (SRU)
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