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Stubborn Ospreys effort forces Munster to deliver late, late bonus point win

Jeremy Loughman scored and created a brilliant try on his first European start, but James Cronin’s late try could prove invaluable.

Ospreys 13

Munster 32

IT’S BEEN SAID before and with no doubt we’ll say it a few times more yet: you can never write off Munster in Europe.

Johann van Graan’s men left it extremely late, but a James Cronin try long after the clock had struck 80 sealed a bonus point win after a fiercely physical night in south Wales.

From the very earliest stages it was clear this task was not going to be as straightforward as most expected against an Ospreys side with with just a single win to their name this season.

A week of soul-searching after a home loss to the Kings certainly stirred a gutsy performance from the Welsh side who attempted over 200 tackles before finally conceding a fourth try.

The stall was set early with Dan Lydiate-led industry that left Munster a frustrating first-half to navigate through. However, as Steve Larkham’s attack found its rhythm through an extended phaseplay attack, Jeremy Loughman’s first European try on his first European start put daylight between the sides at half-time before Keith Earls and Andrew Conway put the result beyond doubt.

keith-earls-celebrates-his-try-with-mike-haley-and-rory-scannell Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

With so much resting on Tyler Bleyendaal after a hamstring injury for JJ Hanrahan last week, the visitors at the The Liberty set out to spread the playmaking load. Not just to Rory Scannell, but to Mike Haley who popped up at first and second receiver – though his early pass towards Earls left the veteran needing to stoop too low to collect and finish.

Early hiccups that included charged down kicks and loose passes from Bleyendaal led to a deserved seventh-minute lead for Ospreys. Johann van Graan’s men responded by increasing the physicality stakes, with CJ Stander and Niall Scannell winning gainlines to keep their on the right side of possession and territory.

The visitors hit a welcome vein of fluency after Price kicked the scores level at 6-6. The early handling errors out of the system, Munster embarked on an impressive set of attacking phases adorned by slick passes and powerful direct carries to take them from halfway to the five-metre line.

A defensive knock-on scuppered the move, but the position was a welcome attacking base for the two-time champions. A scrum penalty was quick-tapped by Conor Murray and with the hosts wilting on their way to a 120-tackle first-half, the red pack worked their way left of the posts where Loughman barrelled over a try to give the southern province a 6-13 half-time lead.

niall-scannell-jeremy-loughman-and-cj-stander-with-scott-williams Niall Scannell, Jeremy Loughman and CJ Stander move in on Scott Williams. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The hard yards were mostly behind Munster by that stage. The first attack of the second period was set alight by a clever move to set O’Donnell away down the right touchline at the front of the line-out. With Haley again in position to give the critical pass, Munster successfully completed their wide move as Earls raced in to sneak a finish that looked a fine margin on the TMO review.

Small advantages lead to big swings in the game, though, and Munster were celebrating a third try two minutes later. Loughman, having scored the first, delivered a whole different kind of impact to set up a superb counter-attack score.

The loosehead scooped up a ball bobbling backwards 35 metres from his own line and produced a big fend to arc around tacklers before unleashing a terrific pass to Farrell. The centre set Conway haring away down the right touchline.

That should have been a stepping stone for Munster. With 19 points between the sides, the replacements rolled in off both benches disrupted the match rhythm and as time drifted by it was the home side who roused the crowd with attacking pressure in the final 10 minutes.

Aled Davies crossed to give a suffering set of fans something to celebrate. And they seemed to depart happy while Munster were still plotting their way forward through a series of penalties.

ames-cronin-scores-the-bonus-point-try Munster celebrate Cronin's late try. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

A third win for an Irish province today never looked in danger in South Wales, but Munster had flirted with less-then-maximum return long enough. They held their nerve and dug out a late, late maul effort to send Cronin crashing over the try-line.

The travelling faithful rewarded with a brave finish once more.

Scorers

Ospreys

Tries: A Davies

Conversions: L Price (1/1)

Penalties: L Price ( 2/2)

Munster

Tries: J Loughman, K Earls, A Conway, J Cronin

Conversions: T Bleyendaal (3/4)

Penalties:  T Bleyendaal (2/2)

Ospreys: Cai Evans (James Hook ’61),  Hanno Dirksen,  Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler,  Scott Williams (Kieran Williams ’60),  Tom Williams,  Luke Price,  Shaun Venter (Aled Davies ’49):   Rhodri Jones (Nicky Smith ’50), Scott Otten  Ifan Phillips (’60),  Ma’afu Fia (Gheorghe Gajion ’69),  Marvin Orie,  Lloyd Ashley (Bradley Davies ’50); Dan Lydiate, Olly Cracknell, Morgan Morris (Sam Cross ’49).

Munster:  Mike Haley, Andrew Conway (Sam Arnold ’71),  Chris Farrell,  Rory Scannell (Dan Goggin ’66),  Keith Earls,  Tyler Bleyendaal,  Conor Murray (Alby Mathewson ’65): Jeremy Loughman (James Cronin ’60),  Niall Scannell (Kevin O’Byrne ’60), John Ryan (Stephen Archer ’50); Jean Kleyn (Tadhg Beirne ’55), Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony,  Tommy O’Donnell (Arno Botha ’59),  CJ Stander

Referee: Karl Dickson [England]. 

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About the author:

Sean Farrell  / Reports from The Liberty Stadium

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