Ryan Bailey reports from Musgrave Park
HE’S WORTH THE admission fee alone, this kid.
On his first start for Munster, Joey Carbery stole the show with a performance oozing with quality from the pivot position as Johann van Graan’s side rebounded impressively to record an emphatic seven-try victory over the Ospreys.
Having showed glimpses of his class in cameos on the opening two weekends of the season, Carbery did exactly what his talent has always promised, commanding and controlling the contest and marking the occasion with a memorable first try in red.
The returning Chris Cloete was awarded the sponsor’s man of the match for an impressive comeback display, but there was no doubt as to who the star was as Carbery received a rousing reception on his exit from the stage he had made his own.
His first-half score, when he slalomed through the Ospreys defence to leave the capacity crowd purring in excitement, was the standout moment but Carbery’s all-round game was faultless as he kicked all five of his conversion attempts.
Overall, Munster were utterly dominant in every facet of the contest as their returning internationals — Peter O’Mahony and Andrew Conway among them — showed no sign of early-season rust with a powerful display.
O’Mahony was the orchestrator of Munster’s opening score which arrived courtesy of a penalty try and when Carbery streaked clear to dive over the whitewash, the hosts were well on their way to a big victory.
With the newly-laid 3G surface at Musgrave Park suiting Munster’s explosive backline, and the forwards — led by O’Mahony, Cloete and Tadhg Beirne — generating quick and quality ball, the southern province tore a weakened Ospreys outfit to shreds.
James Cronin and Rhys Marshall sealed the bonus-point before the half-time interval, and further scores from the Kiwi hooker, Arno Botha and Darren Sweetnam ensured van Graan’s side responded to last week’s defeat in Glasgow on a winning note.
The only caveat to this result being the level of opposition, with the Welsh region providing little resistance in the face of a Munster onslaught, as their tempo and aggression came to the fore.
Munster, fully locked and loaded, were brimming with intent from the off, no doubt wounded by last week’s first-half no-show in Scotstoun.
With the power and dynamism of O’Mahony, Beirne and the returning Cloete dominating the breakdown, and Duncan Williams providing quick and crisp service, Carbery was given the time and space to pull the strings.
With his parents in the crowd, the 22-year-old created the first opening of the game as he took the ball to the line, before releasing the outstanding Sam Arnold who showed a good turn of pace to streak down the outside channel.
The centre had Sweetnam in space on the left but Tom Williams did brilliantly to get back and deflect the intended pass for the Munster winger into touch, preventing a certain try inside the opening minutes.
Munster were relentless in attack, however. Carbery scrambled back to collect James Hook’s clearing kick into open-field and with the Welsh visitors slow in their chase, Mike Haley spotted the space and showed awareness and skill to collect his well-measured chip over the top.
The Irish-qualified fullback, a summer arrival from Sale Sharks, stumbled into the tackle, not before offloading inside for the supporting Beirne, who had the line at his mercy but was off-balance and unable to pouch safely.
But Munster’s breakthrough score wasn’t long in coming, as another loose clearing kick invited Sweetnam to run at the Ospreys defence and his break up the left forced the penalty, which Carbery kicked for the corner after a lengthy discussion with O’Mahony.
It proved to be the correct call as Munster’s forwards exerted huge pressure and their dominance eventually told as referee Stuart Berry awarded the penalty try after a powerful and compact rolling maul had surged towards and over the line.
Ospreys second row Giorgi Nemsadze was sent to the bin for his role in sacking the maul, and although Sam Davies opened his side’s account from the tee at the other end, the out-half’s poorly-executed cross-field kick was pounced upon by Carbery in the 21st minute.
The ball bounced beautifully off the synthetic surface for the Ireland international, and with the Ospreys defence disjointed and slow to react, Carbery — with the ball under his right arm — burst through the gap, exposing Hook on the inside to dive over for his first try for the province.
The celebration, and reaction of the capacity crowd, spoke volumes. The first of many for the new star in Munster red you’d expect, but this one meant a lot. Attaboy, Joey kid came the cry from the stands.
And he wasn’t finished there, nor were van Graan’s rampant side.
On a night of celebration at Musgrave Park as Cork’s All-Ireland-winning camogie team were honoured, Munster turned on the style as Cronin and then Marshall secured the bonus-point before the break after the forwards had battered away at the Ospreys line.
Marshall’s score came on the stroke of the break, and the hooker added a fifth of the night minutes later when a high-tackle on Carbery created the platform for the pack to do their thing again, the Kiwi tasked with falling over the whitewash.
The sixth had Carbery’s imprint all over it, as Munster showed their clinical edge after the peerless O’Mahony swooped for a midfield intercept and Dan Goggin linked with his out-half to free the speedy Sweetnam on this near side.
The Cork native has hit the ground running this season and while he was unable to finish down the left on this occasion, he ensured Munster retained possession for Botha to show all his power from close-range.
It was end-to-end stuff from Munster, started by O’Mahony, finished by the South African.
Sweetnam did get his try on the hour mark, after Ospreys had momentarily reduced the deficit with a converted score through winger Luke Morgan after Conway and Haley had failed to deal with a box-kick in midfield.
But it was soon business as usual as Ian Keatley — on for the outstanding Carbery, who received a standing ovation — made the line-break and showed good hands to get the offload away to Botha, who in turn hit Sweetnam.
Van Graan unloaded his bench, including a return to action for Jaco Taute, in the final quarter, as Munster coasted to victory on a hugely encouraging night in Cork.
Tries: Penalty try, Joey Carbery, James Cronin, Rhys Marshall , Arno Botha, Darren Sweetnam.
Conversions: Joey Carbery [5 from 5], Ian Keatley [1 from 1].
Tries: Luke Morgan
Conversions: Sam Davies [1 from 1]
Penalties: Sam Davies [2 from 2]
MUNSTER: 15. Mike Haley, 14. Andrew Conway, 13. Sammy Arnold (Jaco Taute 52′), 12. Dan Goggin, 11. Darren Sweetnam, 10. Joey Carbery (Ian Keatley 58′), 9. Duncan Williams (James Hart 64′); 1. James Cronin (Dave Kilcoyne 49′), 2. Rhys Marshall (Mike Sherry 57′), 3. Stephen Archer (John Ryan 49′), 4. Tadhg Beirne (Jean Kleyn 52′), 5. Darren O’Shea, 6. Peter O’Mahony (captain) (Tommy O’Donnell 58′), 7. Chris Cloete, 8. Arno Botha.
OSPREYS: 15. James Hook, 14. Tom Williams (Hanno Dirksen 68′), 13. Joe Thomas, 12. Cory Allen (Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler 58′), 11. Luke Morgan, 10. Sam Davies (James Ratti 74′), 9. Tom Habberfield (Matthew Aubrey 58′); 1. Rhodri Jones (Nicky Smith 68′), 2. Scott Baldwin (Ifan Philips 49′), 3. Tom Botha, 4. Giorgi Nemsadze, 5. Adam Beard, 6. Olly Cracknell (captain), 7. Morgan Morris (Guido Volpi 49′), 8. Sam Cross.
Referee: Stuart Berry [SARU].
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