Coombes hat-trick helps Munster see off Ospreys
PRO14 REPORT: Gavin Coombes crossed for a hat-trick as Munster eased past Ospreys 38-22 to preserve their unbeaten start to the 2020/21 Pro14 campaign.
Coombes is now the competition’s top try-scorer with five and his treble helped Munster to their fifth straight victory – the Irish outfit’s best start to a season since 2008.
Mike Haley and Kevin O’Byrne also crossed in the Conference B leaders’ latest triumph as they proved too good for an Ospreys side who had taken an early lead through Luke Morgan’s fine try.
Dewi Lake’s score and a penalty try reduced the deficit for Ospreys but Toby Booth’s side have now lost three on the spin.
The opening stages showed no sign of what was to come as Ospreys drew first blood when two of their back three linked up in style.
Fullback Mat Protheroe scythed through the Munster backline in exhilarating fashion and was well supported by wing Morgan, who took the pass in his stride and sprinted clear to put his side in front six minutes in.
Stephen Myler added the extras as Ospreys took an early lead against an unbeaten Irish side for the second week in succession.
Just as Leinster had in Round Five, however, Munster surged back and responded quickly to put themselves in the driving seat.
The hosts were level when Coombes powered over from five metres out, JJ Hanrahan converting, and just five minutes later they were in front through Haley.
It was an opportunistic try from the fullback, who collected possession on the Ospreys 22, spotted a gap and jinked through it to devastating effect.
Rory Scannell successfully took over conversion duties for Hanrahan, who was struggling with an injury, and his replacement Ben Healy was straight into the action as he slotted over a penalty within a minute of coming on to extend the lead to 17-7.
Meyler responded in kind to bring the deficit back to seven but Munster had the final word in an entertaining first half as an unstoppable rolling maul sent Kevin O’Byrne over.
Healy’s conversion took the half time lead to 24-10 and the bonus point was secured within four minutes of the restart, Coombes dotting down for his second of the game after a scampering run by scrumhalf Craig Casey.
It was a piece of quick thinking that brought the No.8 his hat-trick score ten minutes later, as Coombes took a tap and go from a penalty five metres out and crashed over once more.
Ospreys kept fighting and their pack showed their mettle by forcing two late tries, with Dewi Lake dotting down from a rolling maul before a penalty try rounded off the scoring four minutes from time.
Munster will be disappointed to have taken their foot off the gas in the final 20 minutes but overall this was a job well done for Johann van Graan’s side, who are the only undefeated side in Conference B.
Tries: Coombes 3, Haley, O’Byrne
Cons: Hanrahan, Scannell, Healy 3
Tries: Morgan, Lake, Penalty Try
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Darren Sweetnam, 13 Rory Scannell, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Matt Gallagher, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Gavin Coombes, 7 Tommy O’Donnell, 6 Jack O’Donoghue (captain), 5 Fineen Wycherley, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Kevin O’Byrne, 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Diarmuid Barron, 17 Josh Wycherley, 18 John Ryan, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Jack O’Sullivan, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Ben Healy, 23 Dan Goggin.
Ospreys: 15 Mat Protheroe, 14 Luke Morgan, 13 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, 12 Keiran Williams, 11 Hanno Dirksen, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Dan Lydiate (captain), 6 Will Griffiths, 5 Bradley Davies, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Ifan Phillips, 1 Gareth Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Dewi Lake, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Ma’afu Fia, 19 Rhys Davies, 20 Olly Cracknell, 21 Matthew Aubrey, 22 Josh Thomas, 23 Scott Williams.
Referee: Gianluca Gnecchi
Assistant Referees: George Clancy and Robert O’Sullivan
TMO: Brian McNeice