The Ospreys produced a gritty performance to see off Munster at a rain-soaked Liberty Stadium on Saturday evening
Dan Biggar won his dual with British & Irish Lion Ronan O’Gara, kicking 14 points, while Tommy Bowe crossed for a try early in the second half as the Ospreys ended a run of four games without a win.
Munster suffered a blow ahead of kick-off, when their skipper Paul O’Connell was forced to withdraw with a calf problem, fellow Lion Donnacha Ryan stepping in to the second row in his place.
The visitors had the first opportunity to get points on the board, but Ronan O’Gara’s penalty attempt from a central position drifted harmlessly wide of the right hand post with three minutes gone. He had a chance to make amends just two minutes later, but again he failed, this time his effort from inside his own half falling well short after the Ospreys were guilty of going off their feet at the ruck.
Having already penalised the Ospreys for collapsing the scrum several times in the opening quarter of an hour, referee Neil Paterson handed Munster the lead when he awarded the visitors a penalty try in the 15th minute, ruling that the Ospreys pack had deliberately brought down a retreating scrum, much to the annoyance of the Liberty Stadium crowd, O’Gara adding the extras.
The Ospreys were again under pressure at the set-piece minutes later, James Coughlan being held up as he crossed the line after picking up at the base of the scrum, and with the visitors awarded another go he tried the same move, only for Munster to be pinged for crossing as a try looked certain. The men in black managed to ride the storm though, and soon found themselves up the other end, getting their first points through a Dan Biggar penalty after Munster had gone offside at the foot of the posts as the Ospreys looked to find a way over the line.
Munster should have hit back straight away, but O’Gara again missed a kickable penalty after Alun-wyn Jones came in from the side of a ruck, an offence that saw him taking a ten minute break in the sin bin.
Despite being down to 14, the Ospreys enjoyed their best spell, and Biggar was unlucky not to reduce the deficit when his penalty attempt from near halfway struck the crossbar following a high tackle by Niall Ronan. Just a minute or so later, he was successful from 10 metres closer to leave the Ospreys trailing by just a point. With the Ospreys back up to their full complement for the closing moments of the half, Munster would have been ruing their inability to take advantage of Alun-wyn Jones’s absence.
Half Time: OSPREYS 6 MUNSTER 7
Paul James replaced Duncan Jones at the break, but the Ospreys started the second half where they had ended the first, on the attack, and they took the lead for the first time on the night just four minutes after the restart. Andrew Bishop did tremendously well to collect an up-and-under in Munster territory, and as the ball was moved wide through the hands, Tommy Bowe raced through to touch down close to the corner flag, the TV ref confirming the try. Biggar added the extras from right out on the touchline, but he missed with his next attempt three minutes later after Denis Fogarty came in from the side, an offence that saw him yellow carded.
The Ospreys were full of confidence and playing some good rugby and minutes later they almost grabbed a second try, but on this occasion, the TV ref’s decision went against them. Some good hands saw the ball moved the length of the field, with two runs from Owen catching the eye, and when they reached the opposition line, after several attempts it was James who broke the line to cross, only to be ruled to have knocked on before grounding. Munster were awarded a scrum five, but a huge shove from the Ospreys led to them being awarded the next scrum. A Tiatia charge from the base saw the former All Black held up short, but it was worked back to Biggar who slotted over the drop goal to make it 16-7.
O’Gara wasn’t enjoying his evening as he appeared to struggle to come to terms with the heavy rain, and he missed his fourth penalty of the night, before his opposite number extended the lead from near halfway after Munster hands were spotted in the ruck.
Shortly after they went back up to 15, further Munster indiscipline saw Coughlan sent to the sin bin in the 65th minute after he deliberately interfered with the ball in an offside position as the Ospreys continued to control the match, with Liam Davies enjoying a fine game at scrum half and a vocal Liberty Stadium crowd getting behind their team.
In sharp contrast to the early stages of the game, the Ospreys scrum was dominant, and it was from the set-piece that Jerry Collins almost charged his way over from close range.
In typical Munster fashion, the Irish side refused to go down quietly though, and they piled forward in the closing stages looking to get back in the game. Their efforts were rewarded through a try from replacement Nick Williams after a period of sustained pressure on the Ospreys line, O’Gara’s conversion making it 19-14 with 6 minutes remaining.
It was a nervy end for the Ospreys as Munster hammered on the door, but the home team held firm, even turning down the chance to take three points in the final minute to secure the win and deny Munster a bonus point, Biggar opting to kick to touch and play down the clock to grab their first win in five attempts against reigning Magners League champions.