Munster outclass Ospreys to reach final
PRO12 REPORT: Munster will play Scarlets in the final of the PRO12 after a 23-3 win over Ospreys in the semifinals at Thomond Park on Saturday.
Munster had led at the break following Frances Saili’s 26th-minute score, while Dan Biggar and Tyler Bleyendaal traded penalties as both sides took stock of what was at stake.
Indeed that mentality carried right through to the second half, right until a moment of Munster magic saw Simon Zebo make it 15-3 with just 18 minutes left on the clock.
And it proved too much for Ospreys to come back from as Andrew Conway scored late on, with the PRO12 table-toppers now through to face another Welsh outfit in Scarlets, bidding for their fourth title against the final debutants.
Ospreys dominated the opening stages, and the reward for their endeavours came in the form of a penalty from Dan Biggar, with just seven minutes on the board.
But from there the game hit parity as the two sides cancelled each other out with some ferocious hits, though big mauls from Munster saw them wrestle the initiative.
That proved profitable in the form of the first score of the afternoon, with Rory Scannell making the hard yards, keeping the ball in play to allow Saili to mop up, crash over and give his side the lead.
Once again the teams maintained their evenness, but Bleyendaal ensured his Munster side were to lead by five come the interval, dissecting the posts with the final play.
The tight nature continued into the second half, with a Thomond Park semifinal record crowd of 18 332 kept on tenterhooks as the distance between the two was kept close throughout.
Ospreys looked likelier to score when on the Munster five-metre line, though solid defence – as it has all season – was worth its weight in gold for the home side as they cleared the lines to remain with just 34 tries conceded this term.
It seemed like a moment of magic would be enough to settle this game, and it came from the Munster backs midway through the half – enough to have the home crowd on their feet with an exceptional score.
Pouring forward, it looked as though the Irish province had lost their chance to score, especially when a defensive clearance caught the back three scampering back in retreat of the ball, just moments after they had been held up.
But a breathless minute of rugby was to follow, with Keith Earls, Saili, Conor Murray and Zebo all involved before the latter finished the score.
Crisp passing sent them away down the left wing, with Earls twice involved in the length-of-the-field effort, a try deserving of the subsequent Bleyendaal conversion.
His boot was to once again do the damage five minutes later, kicking a penalty to invoke a 15-minute lead with ten minutes on the clock.
Ospreys looked to have clawed a score back when Scott Otten chipped, chased and dotted down, only for the effort to be hauled back for a knock-on earlier in the piece.
And from there the deficit was too much for the Welsh region, with Andrew Conway adding gloss to the scoreline late on to secure a final for Munster, with the final to come at the Aviva Stadium in seven days’ time.
Tries: Saili, Zebo, Conway
Pens: Bleyendaal 2
Munster: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Francis Saili, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Tommy O’Donnell (c), 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Dave Kilcoyne
Replacements: 16, Rhys Marshall, 17 James Cronin, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Jack O’Donoghue, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Jaco Taute
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Keelan Giles, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Tom Habberfield, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 James King, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sam Underhill, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Rhodri Jones, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Nicky Smith
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Paul James, 18 Dan Suter, 19 Lloyd Ashley, 20 Olly Cracknell, 21 Jay Baker, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Josh Matavesi
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant Referees: Matthew O’Grady (England), Wayne Falla (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)