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Ticket for final secured as Munster overcome the Ospreys’ challenge

(Disappointment for Alun Wynne Jones and the Ospreys)
By Aidan Corr
Guinness PRO12 Championship semi-final:
Munster 23, Ospreys 3
THEY had to be patient and were asked to defend for much of the opening half, but Munster pulled away in the second half to get the result that keeps their hopes of silverware alive when they meet the Scarlets in the Aviva Stadium next Saturday.
The Ospreys came well prepared for today’s game. They dominated the opening quarter, defended well and deserved their early three point lead. Played before an attendance of 18,332, a record for a PRO12 semi-final, the first half was bruising but lacked fluency. Chances were few but it was Munster’s ability to make the most of a half chance that proved to be the difference between the sides.
The Ospreys set about their task in determined fashion as the second half got underway. They needed the next score and had centre Ashley Beck’s long pass been more accurate, left wing Tom Habberfield would have had a clear run-in. Munster had another left-off when Alun Wynne Jones was whistled at a lineout 18 metres from the line with the Ospreys eight primed to set up a maul. Munster surged forward from that penalty, the pack drove over the line but the referee ruled that the ball had been held up. The resultant five metre scrum saw Stander thunder forward, the Ospreys cleared the danger but Munster got one hand on the semi-final ticket when Earls and Conway combined and Simon Zebo raced over. Bleyendaal’s conversion extended the lead to 15-3 with 61 metres played.
Now looking at a season’s extension to next Saturday, Bleyendaal put more daylight between the two sides with a penalty form the ten metre line and the Welsh were in a difficult situation, trailing 18-3. It was 23-3 with six minutes to play, Andrew Conway showing his superb finishing power to touch down with his right hand in the corner.
The Ospreys finished their season with a sparkling backline move which saw Keelan Giles dive over in acrobatic style only to have the score ruled out by the TMO.
Munster march on to Dublin’s headquarters next Saturday where the Scarlets will be filled with Welsh pride and filled with confidence after their victory over Leinster last night.
With Rhys Webb out, his replacement Brendon Leonard drew an early cheer from the home support when he knocked on as the Ospreys got their first footing in the home 22 but the scrum half was soon in the action again, earning the penalty that Dan Biggar converted to give his side a 3-0 lead after seven minutes. It was 16 minutes before Munster got a serious footing in the Osprey half. Most of the action had been in the home half but a Conway boot eventually set up a phase of red pressure. The Ospreys stood up to the attack, Nicky Smith making telling yardage but when the home side flicked on the pressure switch, Munster got over for a try thanks to a little bit of good fortune. The ball appeared to go loose close to the touchline but Francis Saili was first to reactr, getting in at the left corner, Mayorstone end and Bleyendaal’s conversion hitting the upright. 5-3 with 26 minutes played.
Dan Biggar missed a chace to get his side back in the lead a few minutes after that score, his penalty strike drifting just inches wide of the right hand post but it was Munster who finished the half with the better intent. After Donnacha Ryan and Simon Zebo were stopped close to the try line, the home side opted for the penalty and Tyler Bleyendaal sent his side in with a five point advantage, 8-3 at half time.

Scorers, Munster, tries Francis Saili, Simon Zebo, Andrew Conway; Tyler Bleyendaal two conversions and two penalties. Ospreys, penalty Dan Biggar.

Munster: Simon Zebo; Andrew Conway, Francis Saili, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Tyler Bleyendaal, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Donnacha Ryan, Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony (capt.), Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Rhys Marshall, Brian Scott for Kilcoyne 75, Stephen Archer for John Ryan 55, Jean Deysel for O’Donnell 62, Jack O’Donoghue for Holland 70, Duncan Williams for Murray 73, Ian Keatley for Earls 70, Jaco Taute for R Scannell 52.
Ospreys: Dan Evans; Keelan Giles, Kieron Fonotia, Ashley Beck, Tom Habberfield; Dan Biggar, Brendon Leonard; Nicky Smith, Scott Baldwin, Rhodri Jones; Bradley Davies, Alun Wyn Jones (Capt); Sam Underhill, Justin Tipuric, James King.
Replacements: Scott Otten for Baldwin 52, Paul James for Davies, Dan Suter for R Jones 64, Lloyd Ashley for Smith, Olly Cracknell for King 35, Jay Baker, Sam Davies for Biggar 68, Josh Matavesi.
Referee: Luke Pearce (RFU
Assistant Referees: Matthew O’Grady (RFU); Wayne Falla (RFU).
Citing Commissioner: Maurizio Vancini (FIR)
TMO: Graham Hughes (RFU)

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