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Dublin: 9°C Tuesday 13 April 2021
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Cold comfort as Munster force five-try win over Ospreys

Craig Casey’s try-scoring cameo was a highlight as Munster played out a final pool match with knockout hopes already dashed.

Casey crosses for the fourth.
Casey crosses for the fourth.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Munster 33

Ospreys 6

JOHN KELLY DOWN in the corner and the crowd rising to meet him.

Donncha O’Callaghan bouncing amid supporters showing no ill effects from an 80-minute slog. Fists pumping, red flags flying, calculators smoking from re-computed permutations. That’s what the last day of the European Cup pool phase in Thomond Park conjures in  our minds.

Those wistful memories felt even more tattered by time as Munster took on a poor Ospreys outfit with quarter-final ramifications all out of reach. Fortunately, there was at least a source of hope for future knife-edges in the shape of youth springing forth.

Jack O’Donoghue impressed throughout, Jack O’Sullivan ensured his star continues to rise after his cameo, 20-year-old Ben Healy earned a European debut, his academy class-mate Craig Casey was on the field for two six-minute stints and made his presence felt by adding the fourth try to follow CJ Stander, Stephen Archer and Conor Murray’s earlier efforts.

Chris Farrell and Scott Williams were late withdrawals from the respective starting XVs. Andrew Conway was soon lost from the spectacle too after a 11th-minute HIA and the front-liners left behind struggled to take the distinct whiff of dead rubber from the match.

With a low winter sun shining in their eyes, Munster were error-prone in early attacks and the normally-reliable scrum came under pressure as the visitors opened up a 6-0 lead. The climb back would have been steeper had Luke Price not stumbled after telegraphing a JJ Hanrahan pass or Cai Evans nailed a long-range penalty.

The latter let-off stirred a response from Munster players and the 19.981 who wrapped up for a frosty Sunday lunch-time fixture alike. The laissez faire offloads and the lesser-spotted Peter O’Mahony chip-chase that littered the early stages were dispensed with and the crowd cheered lustily at the sight of Mike Haley claiming an aerial victory to signal a return to basics.

Come the half hour mark, a red maul rolled through the Ospreys 22 and Munster made short work of the follow-up attack that teed up Stander to bully his way over to put the hosts in the lead.

Johann van Graan’s side forced two more chances before the half-time whistle. The first ground to a screeching halt with a knock-on after Murray quick-tapped a central penalty. Ospreys cleared their lines, but from the resulting attack the Munster pack pitched up again and this time didn’t turn around until Stephen Archer had pushed the ball to the base of the post.

14-6 at the interval and Munster returned to the field with the same focus they ended the first period with. With Ospreys quickly flagging under pressure, Murray grabbed a try of his own to extend the lead out to 19-6, but the biggest cheer of the day came when his replacement conjured up the bonus point score.

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cj-stander-is-congratulated-by-mike-haley-after-he-scored-his-sides-first-try Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

20-year-old Casey was barely on the field, but instantly found his rhythm. Biding his time behind a forward-marching scrum, the Limerick man showed a delicious side-stepped to ghosted past Dan Lydiate and over the try-line.

The match suffered when Casey had to go for his own HIA, but the scrum-half brings an unmistakable spark to matches and even with the contest long over he could be seen kindling a row with Ospreys back row Olly Cracknell before Stander claimed a fifth try to book-end the scoring for the home side.

But with the knock-outs put out of reach well before kick-off, it was tough to escape a cold feeling from a facile win.

Scorers

Munster

Tries: CJ Stander (2), S Archer, C Murray, C Casey

Conversions: JJ Hanrahan (4/5)

Ospreys

Penalties: L Price (2/2), C Evans (0/1)

Munster: Mike Haley (Ben Healy ‘ 68), Andrew Conway (Dan Goggin ’11), Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell (Kevin O’Byrne ’67), Calvin Nash, JJ Hanrahan, Conor Murray (Craig Casey ’74): Dave Kilcoyne (Jeremy Loughman ’66), Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer (John Ryan ’53); Fineen Wycherley, Billy Holland (Arno Botha ’66), Peter O’Mahony (Jack O’Sullivan ’59), Jack O’Donoghue, CJ Stander.

Ospreys: Cai Evans, Hanno Dirksen, George North, Dan Evans (Sam Cross ’56), Luke Morgan, Luke Price, Shaun Venter, Nicky Smith (Darryl Marfo ’65), Scott Otten (Dewi Lake ’67), Ma’afu Fia (Gheorghe Gajion ’56); Bradley Davies, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Justin Tipuric, Dan Baker (Olly Cracknell ’45)

About the author:

Sean Farrell  / Reports from Thomond Park.

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