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Ospreys make Munster earn their bonus point victory

Guinness PRO14 Championship:
Munster 38, Ospreys 22
RUGBY returned to the silence of Thomond Park this afternoon and the result went to form. Munster fully deserved their bonus point win but there will be areas of their performance that will no doubt receive close attention from the coaches. They were particularly sloppy in the opening 10 minutes but once the bulky Gavin Coombes touched down after a typical penalty/lineout maul, converted by JJ Hanrahan, the outcome was already in the direction of the home side.
Leading 24-10 at the break, Munster went in search of further scores that would seal the victory immediately after the restart. They were rewarded with a brace of Coombes tries to ensure the bonus point and while there will be an inquest into how they allowed the Ospreys to add a further 12 points to their tally in the last 15 minutes, Johann van Graan will be pleased with the performance.
They started this game poorly but once Munster had conceded the first score of the game to the visitors they controlled the opening half, The Ospreys got a tonic of a start, Mat Protheroe fielding a deep kick in his own half to open up space and when his pass to the right was snapped up by right wing Luke Morgan, there was no stopping this Welsh flyer. Stephen Myler added the extra points. The expected response from the home side was not long coming.
Munster clicked into ‘leave it to the pack’ mode and Gavin Coombes got on the end of a maul to add to his season’s try tally, JJ Hanrahan adding the two points to level the tie at 7-7 with 15 minutes played.
It took Munster only three more minutes to go into the lead, left wing Matt Gallagher ghosting trough at the Ballynanty end and Hanrahan adding the easy conversion. On top at the set piece and also at the maul, Munster struck again. JJ Hanrahan had to retire with a thigh injury but his replacement Ben Healy made no mistake when he landed a penalty on 22 minutes to stretch the lead to 17-7. The Ospreys showed typical Welsh spirit and they pulled the lead back to seven points on 33 minutes thanks to a Stephen Myler penalty. Munster needed another score if they were to avoid the wrath of the coach at the break and it came four minutes later. It was not surprising that it was the pack that provided the platform and Kevin O’Byrne got on the end of a mighty maul to touchdown, Healy’s conversion sending the sides in with Munster leading 24-10.
The second half was a closer affair with Gavin Coombes becoming a hat-trick hero with tries on 44 and 53 minutes while sandwiched in the middle was a Dewi Lake try after the Ospreys pack got the better of the home eight with a very impressive drive. The Welsh visitors also had the final say, referee Gianluca Gnecchi signalling a penalty try after Munster again struggled to halt this late surge.
It was an enjoyable game and good to see a good number of Academy players get the opportunity to show their ability on the big stage, but there were aspects of this performance that will have to be remedied.
Munster: Mike Haley; Darren Sweetnam, Rory Scannell, Damian de Allende, Matt Gallagher; JJ Hanrahan, Craig Casey; James Cronin, Kevin O’Byrne, Stephen Archer; Jean Kleyn, Fineen Wycherley; Jack O’Donoghue (capt.), Tommy O’Donnell, Gavin Coombes.
Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, Josh Wycherley, John Ryan, Billy Holland, Jack O’Sullivan, Nick McCarthy, Ben Healy, Dan Goggin.
Ospreys: Matt Protheroe, Luke Morgan, Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, Keiran Williams, Hanno Dirksen, Stephen Myler, Shaun Venter, Gareth Thomas, Ifan Phillips, Tom Botha, Adam Beard, Bradley Davies, Will Griffiths, Dan Lydiate (CAPT), Gareth Evans.
Replacements: Dewi Lake, Rhodri Jones, Ma’afu Fia, Rhys Davies, Olly Cracknell, Matthew Aubrey, Josh Thomas, Scott Williams.
Referee: Gianluca Gnecchi (FIR, 4th Championship Appearance)

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