Supporting Munster may not always be easy on our nerves or blood pressure but their pride in the jersey, their determination to fight until they hear the bell, their fitness levels, workrate and self-belief make it a rewarding experience. The four valuable points earned in Swansea restored them to top spot in the Pro12 league. The famed Munster defense against the most prolific try scorers could have resulted in a low-scoring arm wrestle but instead it was an exciting full-on game where momentum swung dramatically from one side to the other at different stages in the game. The updated table is below; conceding just 21 tries in 15 games is a fantastic achievement while the 49 tries scored isn’t shabby at all!
Munster were on the attack in the opening minutes and were first onto the scoreboard when Tyler Bleyendaal put an early penalty kick between the posts after a high tackle. However the Ospreys then had an extended period of domination. Sky flashed up a stat showing Munster only had 21% possession in the opening 18 minutes! Sky also showed 6 missed tackles in the opening 14 minutes contributing to the two tries scored by Ospreys – a great line break set up by their back row of Sam Underhill with James King taking it on before it was finished off by Hanno Dirksen. Their second was even more disappointing as it came off a Munster scrum when Ospreys disrupted to win possession. A few missed tackles later Ospreys scored again, this time through Kieron Fonotia after some good work by Ashley Beck. Sam Davies converted both and Ospreys were 14-3 ahead within 13 minutes. It looked like this would be a short blog! A forward pass helped Munster avoid conceding three tries in the opening quarter when the TMO confirmed that Beck was in front of Davies. However a penalty for offside against Munster gave Davies a chance to extend their lead, his kick made it 17-3 within 24 minutes.
Jerry Flannery was asked for a soundbite shortly after and it was all about the “D” – defensive issues! Possession and territory were also in short supply as the stats below show but Munster began to grow into the game. They put more phases together and their pressure paid off.
A good scrum won a penalty for Munster which was kicked to touch. The maul was repelled but Munster retained possession. Ospreys conceded another penalty in front of the posts so Munster opted to take the 3 points on offer.
Ospreys took a quick throw-in after forcing Ronan O’Mahony into touch, but Rhys Marshall was up quick to tackle the recipient while Duncan Williams in support won a penalty when the Ospreys player did not release the ball. That was kicked to touch and Ospreys were expecting to defend a maul. Munster showed good variation in their play. Dave O’Callaghan secured the ball and offloaded quickly to Billy Holland who passed to Jack O’Donoghue on the charge for him to score with only Keelan Giles between him and the line.
Tyler Bleyendaal was surprised to see his conversion was unsuccessful. A penalty against Darren O’Shea for being ahead of the kicker gave Ospreys an easy penalty to make it 20-11 entering the final minute of the half.
However a kick out on the full gave Munster one more attacking platform before the break. We roared about the headlock put on Rhys Marshall but play continued, going from one side to the other. Jack O’Donoghue showed great strength not to forced into touch (with help from Ronan O’Mahony) before play came back infield. A lovely offload from Tyler to Saili put the latter through a gap. While he was tackled he was able to stretch over the line to score. Tyler converted. As the players headed for the changing rooms Ospreys must have wondered how their 14 point lead had been cut to just 2!
There was plenty of controversy in the second half. Ospreys thought they had scored but the TMO advised that the base of the corner flag is out of play. The tackle on Beck leading up to it by Saili looked to be worthy of TMO review but was not which understandably angered the home supporters. (update Saili was cited for that incident but no sanction was applied as it was not deemed to be a red card offence)
An offside by Rory Scannell gave Ospreys their only points of the half after 58 minutes when Sam Davies kicked that penalty between the posts to make it a five point game.
A lovely kick through by Andrew Conway was chased by Darren Sweetnam who almost won the foot race to the line but could not control the ball. However the knock-on kept Munster in the right part of the pitch. Another ball to Darren on the wing was also well defended but crucially Munster retained possession. Tyler came agonizingly close to the line in the 65th minute but the TMO advised the ball was just short.
Another 5m scrum for Munster should have provided a chance to pile on more pressure but Ospreys drove Munster back. Wave after wave of Munster players attacked the Ospreys defensive line before conceding a penalty for not releasing. The clock continued to tick down.
Reinforcements played their part. Dan Goggin and Conor Oliver kept the momentum going after a super break by Sweetnam with Conway in support. Another break by Andrew Conway after a sweet pass by Tyler brought play to within a few metres of the line. Kevin O’Byrne carried, before Kilcoyne who seemed to lose his balance and be driven backwards over the line. He fell the right way to score. However he seemed to hurt his knee and was taken off with Peter McCabe taking his place.
Tyler’s conversion under pressure put Munster into a 2 point lead with less than 2 minutes of normal time remaining. An anxious few minutes as twice the referee indicated advantage to Ospreys but Munster kept them pinned back in their own half. I was surprised and relieved to hear him say “advantage over.”
A great turnover won by Kevin O’Byrne secured possession for Munster. Andrew Conway kicked the ball out but our celebrations were cut short when the TMO was asked to check for a high tackle on the Ospreys scrum half. Players on both teams lay stretched out on the pitch, exhausted! The replays showed Kevin and Conor had combined to tackle Brendon Leonard but they had not been too high so Marius Mitrea blew the final whistle.
Munster: I Keatley (A Conway 46); D Sweetnam, F Saili, R Scannell, R O’Mahony (D Goggin 71); T Bleyendaal, D Williams; D Kilcoyne (P McCabe 79), R Marshall (K O’Byrne 54), J Ryan (S Archer 79); D O’Shea (D Foley 46), B Holland; D O’Callaghan, T O’Donnell (C Oliver 71), J O’Donoghue. Replacement not used: Abrie Griesel.
OSPREYS: Dan Evans; Keelan Giles, Kieron Fonotia, Ashley Beck, Hanno Dirksen; Sam Davies, Tom Habberfield (capt); Nicky Smith, Scott Baldwin, Rhodri Jones, Lloyd Ashley, Rory Thornton, Olly Cracknell, Sam Underhill, James King. Replacements: Sam Parry, Paul James, Daniel Suter, Tyler Ardron, Dan Baker, Brendon Leonard, Luke Price, Ben John.
Congratulations to Billy Holland on his 150th appearance for Munster. Billy put in another big performance tonight including a super lineout steal and another big defensive display.
Stats from ESPN are here – the back row and Billy made a serious amount of tackles, Jack was top with 23! This week’s man of the match Dave O’Callaghan made 19 of Munster’s 173 tackles. The stats don’t reflect the momentum shifts within each half but Munster dominated the closing stages of both halves.
Daryl Feehely took some great action (and crowd) shots as usual, which you can view in full here
SKY SPORTS highlights are on their website here
Also worth reading these words about Conor Oliver from someone who should know – Wally himself wrote in the Independent: “He has all of the attributes to become a really good flanker, and he’s unique in Irish rugby at the moment. Oliver is smaller and that allows him to use his fantastic agility to get to the breakdown a bit quicker. He has big future in the game.”
The Social Side
The look on the faces of the two lads who wandered downstairs in the River Bar (presumably looking for the toilets or maybe a salsa class) as we were chanting “Kil-ler, Kil-ler!” in celebration of Dave Kilcoyne’s try-scoring heroics was priceless. I am sure they were surprised to see such a large crowd wearing Munster jerseys in the heart of Dublin! They knew better than to walk across in front of the screen until there was a break in play. The conversion was also greeted with a big cheer and the turnover which enabled Munster to end the game was louder if possible until we saw the referee indicate he was referring to the TMO! Not another last minute penalty to test our already strained nerves! We watched the replay and concluded that it was not above the shoulder but our opinion counted for nought. When we heard the referee and TMO come to the same conclusion and the final whistle blew we almost blew the roof in relief and celebration! No it wasn’t easy, unlike the 33-0 home fixture against the Ospreys in Cork in November but it was sweet!
There was a good crowd again in the River bar for the game, many familiar faces and readers of the blog so it is always nice to meet them in person. There was a cute toddler in her super hero costume who I had not seen there before. Wearing a red cape it was clear who she was supporting and given the win she may be our lucky mascot!
Jim almost succeeded with the positive vibes he was sending Munster for an intercept try early in the second half as Conway came very close to making one! Keep practicing Jim, we might be glad of your abilities in a future close game.
Great to see all four Irish provinces win this weekend as did Racing 92 (bonjour Pascal!) I will be in Limerick next weekend for the third of four legs against Welsh opposition, this time it will be the turn of Scarlets before the game in Cardiff. Check out the WTView Facebook page for interesting articles about Munster rugby during the week.
If you enjoy the blog please share it on social media, tell your friends, like / comment etc. Last week’s view numbers were disappointing – maybe the 6 nations meant we all overloaded on rugby!