Sport Rugby

Saturday 20 July 2019

O'Connell's farewell as Munster made to sweat

Paul O’Connell is applauded off the field by the Thomond Park crowd after playing his last home game for Munster yesterday afternoon. Photo: Brendan Moran
Paul O’Connell is applauded off the field by the Thomond Park crowd after playing his last home game for Munster yesterday afternoon. Photo: Brendan Moran
Paul O'Connell, Munster, in action against Ospreys
Munster's Simon Zebo is tackled by Jeff Hassler of Ospreys
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

Munster went the hard way around securing their spot in the Guinness Pro12 final against Glasgow on Saturday.

Anthony Foley's side had to survive a TMO decision on the last play of the game to beat Ospreys 21-18 in Thomond Park yesterday.

Afterwards, it emerged that it was Paul O'Connell's last game in red at the venue.

"Yes, it's probably the last time I played for Munster here," O'Connell said.

Man of the match CJ Stander said of O'Connell: "I watched him on TV but I never thought I'd play with him. He's a legend in my eyes - in everyone's eyes. You follow him - he's a leader and a man's man and I look up to him. Playing with him was one of the highest points of my career. I get emotional talking about it but he's a legend, yeah. Before the game he said: 'Play in the now, and for each other and for our families'. You could see it in his eyes. He didn't have to speak."

Munster were made to sweat after Josh Matavesi's try in added time left the Thomond Park faithful stunned, but television match official Gareth Simmonds determined it should be ruled out after a knock-on by Rhys Webb in the build-up.

Munster should have killed off the Welsh side by then, twice opening up a 13-point lead early in the second half. Simon Zebo's try put them 11-3 ahead at the interval and Denis Hurley and Paddy Butler both crossed in the third quarter.

However, Ian Keatley had an awful day with the boot, missing out on 12 points. He was successful with just two of seven attempts. His replacement JJ Hanrahan almost missed a penalty. Tries from Webb and Jeff Hassler kept the Ospreys in the hunt.

Munster have a day less to prepare for the final after Glasgow beat Ulster in controversial circumstances in Scotstoun on Friday night. Moreover they have significant injury concerns three key players: Conor Murray (medial knee ligament), Peter O'Mahony (hip flexor) and Simon Zebo (head).

Glasgow have their own troubles on that front and survived having to empty their bench early, because of injuries, against Ulster.

The main talking point came when prop Ricky Lutton was penalised late in the game by referee George Clancy for obstruction on Nico Matawalu. Ulster had a scrum advantage at the time.

"Our prop shouldn't have touched him but at the same time, it's not football," Ulster's Rory Best said afterwards.

"You can't have guys diving all over the place trying to get penalties - at this stage of the season it's such a big moment in the game. And that was our scrum, we were dominant in the scrum.

"We felt we could have got a penalty to win the game but it wasn't to be. We were silly in that we should have let him go but c'mon, are you telling me that he threw him to the ground?"

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