Saturday 21 October 2017

Penney pays tribute to resilience of O'Gara

Munster 13 Ospreys 13

Ronan O’Gara gave one of his most impressive displays in recent months against
Ospreys on Saturday night
Ronan O’Gara gave one of his most impressive displays in recent months against Ospreys on Saturday night

Declan Rooney

One of Ronan O'Gara's best performances of recent months may not have been enough to impress Declan Kidney, but his Munster boss Rob Penney praised the resilience of his out-half, despite being forced to settle for two points from an intense Pro12 clash at Thomond Park.

Four minutes in, he slotted a difficult kick from the left to ease himself into the encounter, but his overall game under the spotlight pleased coach Rob Penney.

"He did really well. He has had a tough couple of weeks and it shows how resilient the man is. He has still got a lot left to offer. But I was really proud of the effort and energy the guys put in. Again (we lacked) a little bit of accuracy at times, but no team is perfect," Penney said.

The game hinged on the seven minutes after Damien Varley's try had given Munster the advantage early in the second half. Instead of building on that seven-point lead, Munster found themselves down to 14 men after Stephen Archer's sin-binning for a reckless tackle. Immediately Ospreys struck through Jonathan Thomas, with a powerful rolling maul forcing the try.

"It was really disappointing," Penney said. "They are pivotal moments. Obviously a yellow card at that point had a massive effect. But, in saying that, they got into the corner and they got a try and converted it. They are a very good defensive side and are hard to penetrate. They were no different tonight; they were tenacious."

Last week it was the Munster players that Penney took his frustration out on after their Treviso collapse, but this week he defended his side, while the officials and Ospreys came under fire.

"There was no lack of commitment this week and that was important," the coach added. "We could easily have picked up a couple of penalties. I'm sure Rog would have slotted them and we'd be in a different state.

"I don't think it was a lack of effort. It is difficult when you have got the opposition players in your backline when you are trying to play and the officials probably let a few things slip through there.

"So, maybe, on reflection, we were not always in control, but we created opportunities, and in tight games you need the odd thing going for you and that wasn't for us tonight," said Penney, whose side now sit seven points off the play-offs in mid-table.

divided

The first half was evenly divided, with two fine Matthew Morgan penalties midway through the half book-ended by O'Gara kicks to send the sides in level 6-6 at the break.

At times in the opening half Munster threatened to cut loose, but with James Coughlan and Dave Kilcoyne lively in the loose and with O'Gara playing closer to the gain-line than usual, they threatened the Ospreys line on a number of occasions.

But they had to wait until five minutes after the restart for that try as Varley burrowed over from close range to give Munster an 11-6 lead.

O'Gara had no problem with the conversion to stretch their advantage to seven points, but the sin-binning of Archer for failing to use his arms in the tackle against James King knocked Munster back on their heels. And after Morgan pinned Munster deep in their own '22' from the resultant penalty, Jonathan Thomas took the plaudits as he finished off the line-out move with a deserved try.

Morgan slotted the difficult conversion to level the game for the fourth time and, in the final act, O'Gara failed with a drop-goal from a good distance out that would have given Munster the victory.

After the tongue-lashing he delivered last week, Penney once again warned his players that standards need to be kept high for every game.

"You can't do that every week; it's not appropriate. You can't live in that zone. Players need to get themselves in the right position to play well," he said.

"There was a marked difference in performance today than there was in the last two weeks. I think that was evident."

Munster – F Jones (I Keatley 71); D Howlett, C Laulala, J Downey, D Hurley; R O'Gara, C Sheridan (D Williams 59); D Kilcoyne (W du Preez 63), D Varley (M Sherry 59), S Archer (BJ Botha 61); I Nagle (BJ Botha 55-60) (D Foley 61), B Holland; P Butler, T O'Donnell, J Coughlan.

Ospreys – R Fussell; T Habberfield, J Spratt, A Beck, T Isaacs; M Morgan, K Fotuali'i; D Jones (M Thomas 57), S Baldwin, C Griffiths (D Arhip 59); A Wyn Jones, L Peers; J King, S Lewis, J Thomas.

Ref – Nigel Owens (WRU)

Irish Independent

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