Ospreys break Munster duck
December 18, 2010
Munster's scrum buckles under pressure from the dominant Ospreys pack
© PA Photos
The Ospreys kept their Heineken Cup hopes alive with a hard-fought 19-15 victory over Munster at the Liberty Stadium.
A try from scrum-half Mike Phillips and 14 points from the boot of fly-half Dan Biggar carried the Ospreys to a deserved victory that keeps them in touch with their Irish rivals and French side Toulon in the ultra-competitive Pool 3. Tries from prop Tony Buckley and centre Keith Earls ensured Munster claimed what could be a valuable bonus point despite having been outmuscled by an Ospreys side determined to exact revenge for a narrow defeat at Thomond Park last weekend.
The Ospreys' victory was built on a superb scrummaging display and an equally impressive defensive showing with man of the match Adam Jones a key weapon as the hosts scored their first Heineken Cup victory over Munster in five attempts and also extended their unbeaten home run in Europe to 15 games. But they may come to regret their failure to deny Munster any return having dominated them in a manner so rare on the Heineken Cup stage.
An offside penalty against the Ospreys' Tommy Bowe, lining up at outside centre rather than his usual wing berth, gifted O'Gara the chance to open the scores and he made no mistake from the kicking tee.
Munster exerted much of the early pressure with a charge down from captain Denis Leamy and a chip through from centre Sam Tuitupou causing concern for the hosts who were forced to concede a 5m scrum. But the home side's pack rose to the challenge and won a penalty against Munster's Buckley that sparked the first confrontation between the two sides.
The Ospreys' scrum continued to dominate their Irish rivals and pressure on the Munster lineout also brought reward with Biggar able to level the scores with a penalty just past the quarter hour. The Ospreys' eagerness to secure the ball then saw lock Ryan Jones penalised for going off his feet but O'Gara failed to punish him further.
Munster exploded back into life soon after with Tuitupou breaking through the Ospreys' defence all too easily before finding Leamy on his shoulder with scrum-half Tomas O'Leary driving closer to the line. Red shirts swarmed onto the ball and the Ospreys could not stop Buckley being driven over the line under the posts.
O'Gara added the simple extras before the Ospreys launched a powerful riposte to stretch Munster with a deadly combination of pace and quick ball that resulted in Phillips burrowing his way over from close range although replays suggested that O'Gara was obstructed by the Ospreys' Barry Davies in the build-up. Biggar landed the conversion to level the scores and they were soon knocking on the door again with a moment of magic from centre James Hook almost carving Munster open.
Ospreys winger Richard Fussell was then on the receiving end of a borderline double tackle from Tuitupou and Keith Earls before Ospreys hooker Richard Hibbard and flanker Jerry Collins offered some impressive physicality of their own. And another flashpoint at the scrum allowed Biggar to put his side into the lead for the first time in the game as the half drew to a close.
Munster had the better of a scrappy start to the second half with O'Gara finding some room in the Ospreys' 22 before flanker James Coughlan earned some hard yards. Openside David Wallace then went close before Leamy was held back as he tried to dive over to score. Coughlan then looked to muscle his way over but his attempt to ground the ball was denied by the Television Match Official.
Leamy led the charge off the back of the next scrum before O'Leary tried to squeeze his way over but there was no way through and the ball was eventually lost by Buckley and cleared by Davies. Munster fullback Paul Warwick was just wide with a long range drop goal attempt before the Irish side streamed forward again only to be denied by some more outstanding defence from the Ospreys. Leamy was then guilty of a blatant infringement at the breakdown and Biggar landed the monster kick to take his side out to a six-point lead.
But Munster hit back on the hour mark with their second try. Quick ball off the lineout had the Ospreys stretched and a chip ahead from wing Doug Howlett caused further panic. The Kiwi speedster looked lucky to get away with a shove on Fussell as both went up to claim the ball with the result being a kind bounce for Earls who gladly collected the ball before racing in to score. The conversion proved too difficult for O'Gara to leave the Ospreys in the lead and Biggar narrowly failed to extend their advantage with a drop goal attempt on the hour mark.
The Ospreys' pack produced another timely scrummaging lesson to allow Biggar the chance to extend his side's lead which he duly took although his side were lucky to be awarded the set-piece with the fly-half having fooled the officials as he claimed an O'Gara kick in-goal.
Another immense scrum from the Ospreys heaped woe on Munster and tempers flared between Hibbard and his opposite number Damian Varley. Biggar' kick took the game deep into the Munster half but the visitors kept the contest alive with an important steal.
A turnover inside by the Ospreys and a kick ahead from Phillips caused trouble for Munster with Warwick forced into desperate measures to avert the danger with the result a scrum inside the visitors' 22. The Ospreys looked to hammer home their advantage at the set-piece by shoving their opponents off the ball and they did just that to earn a penalty.
They opted to kick for the corner for a lineout in a bid to rob Munster of a bonus point and a free kick followed when a penalty may have been the wiser option. But a penalty soon after and a yellow card for Mafi allowed them to turn the screw with a tap and go from skipper Wyn-Jones but they failed to muscle their way over and the whistle came to the rescue of Munster.
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