Full report on tonight’s Guinness PRO14 match at Irish Independent Park.
It was a tough evening in Cork as the Ospreys were defeated by Munster for the second time this season. Trailing by 24 shortly before the break the visitors refused to throw in the towel, showing plenty of spirit and endeavour in defeat.
After an evenly balanced first quarter, the home team took full advantage of a yellow card to Will Jones to run in 14 points while the Ospreys were a man down and never looked back as the secured a bonus point win.
Jeff Hassler scored his first try of the season just before half-time while young flanker Jones then marked his first Pro14 start with his debut try late in the game.
Going into the match carrying a lengthy injury list the Ospreys then lost Sam Parry and Dmitri Arhip by half-time, Gareth Thomas the third of the front row to be forced off shortly after the restart.
It was Munster who opened the scoring in the fifth minute after some ferocious early exchanges, Ian Keatley with a simple three points in front of the posts, the Ospreys penalised on the floor after Rory Scannell had charged down Sam Davies’ attempted clearance.
At the other end Davies went to the corner rather than the posts from 30m out after Munster were guilty of not rolling away but the Ospreys 10 put too much on it, kicking it dead to let the home team off the hook.
Strong carries from back rowers Olly Cracknell and Jones then put the Ospreys on the front foot as they put together 15 phases in Munster territory but, with 16 minutes played they suffered a setback when Jones, 19 tomorrow, was shown a yellow card.
Referee Ben Whitehouse was left with little option other than to send the Wales age-grade skipper to the sinbin after a neck roll on his opposite number, Chris Cloete, as he looked to clear out at the ruck after Hanno Dirksen had been stopped close to the touchline.
After an old fashioned all-in between the two sets of players, a quick check with the TMO confirmed the decision, meaning the Ospreys faced 10 minutes a man down.
Almost instantly Munster had stretched the lead, centre Sam Arnold ghosting through to score under the posts after the Ospreys had lost possession at their lineout, Keatley with the extras to take the score to 10-0 with 18 minutes gone.
It got worse five minutes later when Darren Sweetnam crossed for Munster’s second, the winger taking the ball upfield off Keatley and then taking advantage of a bouncing ball that had appeared to go forward from Cloete to score. Keatley converted to rub salt into Ospreys wounds.
Jones returned to the to the field to boos from the home crowd, with his side trailing by 17 and within minutes the deficit was 24 points when Cloete burrowed his way over from close range,The TMO confirmed the score wide on the right, Keatley slotting the conversion.
The Ospreys were finally able to get their side of the scoreboard moving a minute before the interval, a scrum in a central position close to the 22 providing a platform to attack.
The ball was moved left, Kieron Fonotia carried strongly and then offloaded to Hassler who finished well in the corner. Unfortunately the angle proved too much for Davies.
HALF-TIME: MUNSTER 24-5 OSPREYS
It was the worst possible start to the second half as Munster grabbed a fourth try, and a bonus point, within three minutes, Scannell losing Sam Davies with a little dummy and then shrugging off Tom Habberfield’s last ditch tackle to score, with Keatley again successfully adding the extras.
We then had a lengthy stoppage as Munster’s Liam O’Connor received treatment before being stretchered off, the game getting back underway five minutes later with the hosts holding a 26-point advantage.
Munster were in full control and they stretched their lead with 55 minutes gone, a simple walkover out wide on the right for Jack O’Donoghue in acres of space after Cracknell had been turned over trying to carry out from his own line after an Ospreys throw.
For the first time on the night Keatley was unable to find the target with his kick, pushing the conversion attempt across the posts and wide.
Lloyd Ashley was the next forced out of the action for a HIA but despite the latest setback the Ospreys kept chipping away, enjoying probably their best spell as they laid siege to the Munster line, forcing six penalties in five minutes close to the line that eventually saw O’Donoghue shown yellow.
Still the Ospreys kept pressing, still Munster kept offending and, with nine minutes to play the visitors were eventually able to get over the line, Jones forcing his way over in the corner, the conversion missed.
The final minutes were played out in midfield with no change to the scoreboard, the focus now switching to Europe over the next two weekends and back to back games against Northampton Saints.