Sunday 26 February 2017

O'Gara nicks it for Munster

OSPREYS 20 MUNSTER 22

Matt Lloyd

Ronan O'Gara clinched a dramatic victory for Munster with the final kick of the game to leave the hopes of defending Magners League champions Ospreys hanging by a thread.



Munster looked destined for defeat when James Hook landed a long-range effort four minutes from time and O'Gara fired a late drop goal wide.

But they were gifted another chance at victory when replacement Jerry Collins was sin-binned for a high tackle on Felix Jones. O'Gara was off-target again with a drop goal from the resulting lineout, but in their eagerness to block the kick, several Ospreys strayed offside and O'Gara fired over the winner on the whistle.

Munster may have arrived in Swansea with top spot in but that did not stop them wanting to knock the defending champions out of the running for a semi-final spot.

Keith Earls felt he was unlawfully denied a try when he was challenged by Richard Fussell as he sought to gather his own kick ahead after Felix Jones exposed Tommy Bowe's lack of experience at centre to pierce the Ospreys defence.

Lifeimi Mafi, shifted to outside centre, also felt aggrieved at a similar offence though had less ground for complaint after a collision with Nikki Walker as the pair chased O'Gara's neat chip, all inside the opening 26 minutes.

Moments earlier, O'Gara kicked the opening points of the game after Earls capitalised on Rhys Webb's charged down kick after opposite number Conor Murray did enough to deny James Hook. Having survived that scare, Munster then grabbed the game's opening try eight minutes before half-time through Wallace.

Hooker Damien Varley tore clear from another successful lineout and Wallace was on-hand to follow-up despite the efforts of Marty Holah. O'Gara converted and added a penalty seconds into the second half, after Dan Biggar's first effort, and Munster were sailing at 13-3.

However, then Munster began to tear at the seams in a painful eight-minute spell that began when Biggar saw his second effort at goal ruled out by the fourth official.

The Ospreys then combined for a try straight out of Munster's copy book, a lineout drive that ended with Alun-Wyn Jones diving over from close range in the 52nd minute.

Suddenly the Ospreys were galvanised into action, Fussell raced clear from inside his own half and Webb went close before Munster regathered their numbers.

But when Wallace was penalised, the Ospreys drafted on Wales prop Paul James, and there followed a brutal series of scrummages. Four scrums and three penalties later, French referee Jerome Garces finally lost patience with the Munster front-row and awarded a penalty try that Biggar converted.

Within minutes, 13-3 become 13-17, and Munster were forced to dig deep to steady the ship and managed to conjure a late recovery.

Scorers -- Ospreys: A-W Jones, pen try, D Biggar pen, 2 cons, J Hook pen. Munster: D Wallace try, R O'Gara 5 pens, con

Ospreys: L Byrne (A Bishop, 28); N Walker, T Bowe, J Hook, R Fussell; D Biggar (S Parker, 72), R Webb (M Phillips, 73); R Bevington (P James, 54), R Hibbard, A Jones (D Jones, 72), I Gough (R Jones 17-28, 46), AW Jones (capt), J Tipuric, J Thomas, M Holah (J Collins, 72)

Munster: F Jones; D Howlett, L Mafi, P Warwick (S Zebo, 66) K Earls, R O'Gara (capt), C Murray (P Stringer, 62); M Horan (W Du Preez, 50), D Varley (M Sherry, 62), J Hayes (T Buckley, H-T), I Nagle (T O'Donnell, 58), D O'Callaghan, D Ryan, J Coughlan, D Wallace.

Referee: J Garces (France)

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