New head coach Van Graan off to winning start as Munster crush Ospreys
At this time of year a perfectly dry, calm night is a bonus. Combine that with an immaculate surface - it did churn up a bit - and you have the ideal stage. With a full house of 8,000 at Irish Independent Park, providing both teams want to play then you’re in business.
Ospreys seemed to like the idea of doing just that whereas Munster were altogether more serious about it. Having a new coach on the premises is like a showing players a clean slate and telling them they have to decorate it with attractive shapes and clean lines. And off they go.
Munster went at a fair clip, leaving Johann van Graan with lots to be pleased about. Halfbacks James Hart and Ian Keatley, with the outhalf outstanding. So too was man of the match Rhys Marshall, and flanker Chris Cloete who showed enormous energy.
It was all too much for the visitors. To be 5-24 at half time is a tricky position for any away side, and for Ospreys it was all a bit much.
At no point in that first period did they look like sticking Munster into their own corner and keeping them there until points were surrendered. Instead the momentum - not unbroken - was mostly with the Reds. And to their credit they didn’t leave a lot behind them.
Between the 18th and 29th minutes they ran up 24 points. It started with Sam Arnold - always looking to have a go - took a good line off Keatley after Olly Cracknell had lost control of an Ospreys lineout that had seemed sorted.
Six minutes later Darren Sweetnam got over after his outhalf reacted quickly when the back-field was closed off and ran the ball blind. He found Chris Cloete - not too hard for a man who was everywhere - and the flanker’s overhead pass was picked up nicely by Sweetnam to score.
Ospreys seemed unhappy with the trajectory of the pass but referee Ben Whitehouse wasn’t listening. Then on 29 minutes Cloete was rewarded for quick thinking when he had been buried in a tackle five metres from the Ospreys : with no poach coming he got back to his feet, picked up the ball, and scored in the corner. That virtually killed the contest. But Munster had the bonus point in their sights.
They had that sorted within three minutes of the new half when Rory Scannell worked a perfect one-two with wing Alex Wootton for the centre to score, Keatley’s conversion making it 31-5.
The only black spots for Munster were the injuries to Simon Zebo, who went off at half time, and then loose head Liam O’Connor who seemed to do more significant damage and needed a stretcher to go off.
Sweetnam won’t have been too happy either with his incomplete tackle on Kieron Fonotia, which lead to a try for Jeff Hassler just before the break. But by the time Ospreys got another one Jack O’Donoghue had scored Munster’s fifth.
Munster: S Zebo (JJ Hanrahan.ht); D Sweetnam, S Arnold (S O’Connor 77), R Scannell, A Wootton; I Keatley (C Nash 57), J Hart (D Williams 51); L O’Connor (B Scott 48), R Marshall, J Ryan (S Archer 74), J Kleyn (D O’Shea 51), B Holland (capt), J O’Donoghue (yc 68-78), R Copeland, C Cloete
Ospreys: D Evans; H Dirksen, K Fonotia, J Hook, J Hassler (J Thomas 73); S Davies (L Price 76), T Habberfield; G Thomas (R Jenkins 42), S Parry (S Baldwin HIA 26-32; 36), D Arhip, L Ashley (R McCusker HIA 54-62), B Davies (capt), O Cracknell (J McCusker 74) King, W Jones (yc 17-27)
Referee: B Whitehouse (Wales)