Sunday 20 August 2017

Munster fall just short of great escape

OSPREYS 19 MUNSTER 13

Munster's Doug Howlett evades the tackle of James King of Ospreys during their clash at the Liberty Stadium.
Munster's Doug Howlett evades the tackle of James King of Ospreys during their clash at the Liberty Stadium.

JOHN FALLON

Munster had the stage set to snatch another last-gasp winner, but this time they were unable to pull off a dramatic finish as Ospreys held out at the Liberty Stadium to complete the double over the league champions last night.

A poor third quarter left Munster chasing a six-point deficit in the endgame, but while they dominated the closing stages and built the phases, they just could not find a way through and had left themselves with too much to do for Ronan O'Gara to save them with another drop-goal.

The damage was done to the champions in the third quarter when they coughed up two tries to wipe out their 10-6 interval lead.

Neither side enjoyed great periods of good rugby in the opening half with even the two kickers, Ian Keatley and Matthew Morgan, both missing a pair of penalties that would normally be in range.

The pair eventually swapped penalties before Munster got a break. A grubber from Will Chambers took a deflection off Jonathan Thomas inside the 22 and Doug Howlett reacted the smartest to race in and touch down, with Keatley adding the points to make it 10-3 after 28 minutes.

Ospreys took control in the third quarter and hit the front four minutes after the restart when an initial break by Ian Gough was finished by Richard Fussell after referee Peter Allan went to the television match official and correctly ruled that a pass from Rhys Webb was touched by Munster's Keatley and not the Ospreys full-back Barry Davies.

Munster were caught napping six minutes later when scrumhalf Webb tapped a quick penalty inside the 22 and went round Tomas O'Leary and Simon Zebo to touch down for the sort of try Munster rarely concede.

There was another let-off when Morgan missed his second conversion and Tony McGahan drafted in Paul O'Connell, Ronan O'Gara and Wian du Preez in a bid to stem the flow.

O'Gara reduced the deficit after 62 minutes with a penalty from 25 metres on the right, but Ospreys restored their six-point lead from the restart when Niall Ronan was penalised for hands in the ruck and Morgan landed the 40 metres effort to make it 19-13.

Munster piled on the pressure after that but there was to be no dramatic winner this time as Ospreys held out to complete the double over the champions, with Howlett limping off in the closing stages to add to Munster's woes.

Scorers -- Ospreys: Fussell, Webb tries; Morgan 2 pens. Munster: Howlett try; Keatley pen, con; O'Gara pen

Ospreys: B Davies (H Dirksen, 48); T Bowe, A Bishop, A Beck, R Fussell; M Morgan, R Webb (T Isaacs, 66); D Jones, R Hibbard (M Davies, 57), A Jarvis (C Griffiths, 48); I Gough, J Thomas; T Smith, J King, J Bearman.

Munster: D Hurley; D Howlett (J Murphy, 76), W Chambers, D Barnes (R O'Gara, 50), S Zebo; I Keatley, T O'Leary (C Murray, 61); M Horan (W du Preez, 50), D Varley, BJ Botha; D O'Callaghan, D Ryan (P O'Connell, 45) ; D Leamy (J Coughlan, 61), N Ronan, P O'Mahony.

Referee: P Allan (SRU).

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