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Ospreys The Bookies Favourites

May 11, 2012 12:00 am By Munster Rugby

Munster will fly home from Wales tonight with players and management either planning holidays or a RaboDirect PRO12 final in a fortnight’s time, potentially against the Heineken Cup champions.

  All the signs favour an Ospreys win. They've only been beaten once this season at home. They’ve won the two encounters in the Rabo this season and among the twelve players unavailable to Tony McGahan, it’s the most recent additions to that injured list, Paul O’Connell, Damien Varley, James Coughlan, David Wallace and now Felix Jones, that will be most keenly felt.

Munster have learned to live without frontliners such as Doug Howlett, Denis Leamy and Niall Ronan as well as retirees John Hayes and Jerry Flannery and deserve credit for having reached this stage of the season still in with a shot at the title. Nevertheless, winning at the Liberty at this time of the season requires experience and then some. And a huge amount therefore will be expected of what is essentially a callow squad.

Simon Zebo however is third in the leading try scorer list (8), Ian Keatley is third leading points scorer (177) while locks Mick O'Driscoll and Donncha O'Callaghan have over 400 caps between them.

For their part, Ospreys espouse confidence with five wins on the trot under their belts, a run that started with victory over Leinster at the RDS, with some close to the team already talking about a return to Dublin for the final !

They'll be without the likes of Tommy Bowe, Huw Bennett and Cai Griffiths but still have a plethora of Welsh internationals plus the incentive of another Liberty goodbye to Shane Williams to take care of.

Games between the sides in the recent past have ended with just one score separating and there's no reason to believe this one will end any differently.

Ospreys: R Fussell; H Dirksen, A Bishop, A Beck, S Williams; D Biggar, K Fotuaili’i; P James, R Hibbard, A Jones, A Wyn Jones, I Evans, R Jones, J Tipuric, J Bearman. Replacements: S Baldwin, R Bevington, A Jarvis, J King, T Smith, R Webb, M Morgan, T Isaacs.

Munster:  J Murphy; I Dineen, K Earls, L Mafi, S Zebo; I Keatley, C Murray; W du Preez, M Sherry, B Botha, D O’Callaghan, M O’Driscoll, D Ryan, T O’Donnell, P O’Mahony. Replacements: D Fogarty, D Kilcoyne, S Archer, Dave OCallaghan, P Butler, T OLeary, R OGara, D Barnes.

Referee: A Rolland

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No Consolation Of Any Sort In This Result

May 12, 2012 12:00 am By Munster Rugby

The venue where Munster’s season ended couldn’t have been completely unexpected, given it was the Liberty Stadium where Ospreys had only lost once this season. However, the manner and margin of the defeat, was wholly unexpected.

So too was the second half performance where every Munster error was punished ruthlessly by a home side who scored twenty two unanswered points. 

And they might have scored one or two more tries to add to those of Dan Biggar, Fana Fotauli’i, Hanno Dirksen, Andrew Bishop and Rhys Webb but for a failure of execution on their part and some fearless defending on Munster’s.

In the end however, the small knot of Munster supporters among the ten and a half thousand, were grateful that Alain Rolland’s final whistle brought an end to a game that had initially promised so much.

Munster were up and running right from the start and when Ivan Dineen ran back a loose clearance, Keith Earls took a great line to spilt the Ospreys defence and send Ian Keatley over for a try the out-half then converted for  a seven point lead.

And it remained a close contest as Ospreys responded and took the lead, first with a Dan Biggar penalty and then a seven pointer from the Welsh out-half before Keatley was on the mark from distance to tie the game 10 points apiece.

Biggar kicked Ospreys ahead with two penalties before we had, arguably the seminal moment just before the break.

Munster had worked their way into the Ospreys 22 and really should have scored wide right. But Ospreys resisted, won turnover ball that had Richard Fussell racing clear and when he was stopped Joe Bearman continued the move to send scrum-half  Fotauli’i ending a length of the field move with a try under the sticks that Biggar of course converted.

It was, from Munster’s point of view a crushing blow and one they never really looked like recovering from.

Well that and Osprey’s propensity for making the most of their opportunities and the priceless asset of players with pure pace like Dirksen, Fussell and the little maestro Shane Williams.

To their credit Munster set about the task in determined fashion but their failure to protect the ball at crucial times proved their undoing.  They threatened the Ospreys line in the opening minutes of the second half but Simon Zebo knocked-on when stopped just short and it seemed this miss followed by Biggar’s penalty in the 49th minute, drained the energy from red clad limbs.

Dirksen switched on the after burners and scorched in for a try six minutes later. At this stage Steve Tandy emptied his bench and with Munster running on empty there were further tries from Andrew Bishop in the 62nd minute and replacement scrum-half Webb nine minutes from time.

Afterwards a disconsolate Mick O’Driscoll, who had played his heart out in his 207th and final game in a Munster jersey, highlighted the error count as the main area of Munster woe. “We made way too many mistakes, gave away the ball too easily and you just can’t do that against a quality side like Ospreys.

The try before half time was a real sickener. Again we were in a good position, six points down pressing inside their 22 and we turn it (ball) over and they’re down scoring at the other end.

“Massively disappointing to end our season like this,” he concluded, “nothing more to be said.”

Ospreys: R Fussell (S Baldwin 61); H Dirksen (T Isaacs 71), A Bishop, A Beck, S Williams; D Biggar (M Morgan 73), K Fotuali'I (R Webb 56); P James (R Bevington 56), R Hibbard, A Jones, A Wyn-Jones (Capt, J King 69), I Evans, R Jones (T Smith 71), J Tipuric, J Bearman.

Munster: J Murphy (R O'Gara 23); I Dineen, K Earls, L Mafi, S Zebo; I Keatley (D Barnes), C Murray (T O'Leary 56); W du Preez (D Kilcoyne 74), M Sherry (D Fogarty 74), BJ Botha (S Archer 74); D O'Callaghan (Dave O'Callaghan 52), M O'Driscoll; D Ryan, T O'Donnell, P O'Mahony (Capt).

Referee: A Rolland (Ireland)

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