Thursday 14 December 2017

Stander leaves it late as Munster steal points

Ospreys 18 Munster20

Andrew Conway, Munster, is tackled by Sam Underhill and Dan Baker, Ospreys
Andrew Conway, Munster, is tackled by Sam Underhill and Dan Baker, Ospreys
CJ Stander, Munster, goes over to score the match winning try
Robin Copeland, Munster, attempts to break through the Ospreys defence

Andrew Gwilym

Munster snatched victory at the death as CJ Stander's last-gasp try sunk the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium.

Munster looked to be heading for defeat as they trailed by five points in the final minute in Swansea after fly-half Sam Davies had kicked six penalties for the hosts.

But they kept their composure and laid siege to the try-line, with replacement Stander finding his way through the defensive wall to dot down, with Ian Keatley adding the extras to take all four points.

Before hostilities commenced, the Liberty Stadium stopped to remember former Ospreys and New Zealand flanker Jerry Collins, who died alongside wife Alana in a car accident in France in June. Both sides laid wreaths next to a number six shirt before a minute's silence.

The emotion spurred the home side early on, with Collins' former international team-mate Brendon Leonard dictating play from scrum-half. Fly-half Davies booted them into an early lead, but Tyler Bleyendaal soon hit back as Francis Saili served notice of what he can bring to the men in red with a slashing break and perfect offload.

The visitors should have led in the 25th minute when scrum-half Cathal Sheridan showed great awareness to spot few defenders on the Munster left, but Fitzgerald could not ground his cross-kick under pressure.

It sparked Munster's best period of the match, with Robin Copeland rampaging to within yards of the line from Bleyendaal's nice inside ball. It forced the retreating Ospreys to infringe and the Kiwi No 10 made no mistake.

However, the momentum swung the Ospreys' way either side of the break. Joe Bearman and Parry broke into the Munster 22 where Dave Kilcoyne went off his feet to prevent quick ball, before the visitors pushed up hastily in midfield for another penalty.

Davies converted both opportunities and added his fourth penalty early in the second half when Munster were penalised trying to play out of their own territory. The visitors responded in fine fashion. A kickable penalty was turned down in favour of the rolling maul. Numbers of Ospreys defenders were sucked in and Bleyendaal was alert to produce a cross-kick to give Fitzgerald an easy finish on the left-hand side.

The conversion put Munster a point up, but they gifted the advantage back to their hosts with two needless penalties.

First, Copeland opted to carry a deep kick out of his 22 rather than find touch, before the Munster scrum switched off and were sent backwards at a rate of knots.

Davies maintained his 100 per cent record to open up a five-point lead with time running out.

But Munster would not be denied. As the seconds ticked down, the red shirts battered away at the Ospreys defence wall until Stander found the weak point and blasted through, with Keatley sealing the deal with the conversion.

Ospreys - Evans; Phillips (Fussell 65), Spratt, Watkin (Jenkins 59), Dirksen; Davies, Leonard; Smith (Thomas 64), Parry (Otten 36-40, 54), Arhip (Griffiths 79), Ashley , Thornton (Steenkamp 68), Bearman (Cracknell 50), Underhill, Baker.

Munster- Jones; Conway, Saili, Scannell, Fitzgerald; Bleyendaal (Keatley 65), Sheridan (Williams 37); Kilcoyne (Cronin 53), Sherry (Casey 59), Botha, Chisholm, Foley, O'Callaghan, O'Donoghue (Coghlan 72), Copeland (Stander 65).

Ref - D Phillips (IRFU)


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