Hawkeye Sidekick

Guinness Pro 14: Ospreys 15 – 21 Munster

guinness_pro_14_logo
Munster win on the road

Munster remain unbeaten following a 21-15 win over Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium. A game plighted by the inclement weather but still plenty for both teams to mull over in the coming days in video analysis. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the action wondering if there is a genuine battle for the Munster ten jersey.

munster_simon_zebo
Munster win in their first serious road test

This was Munster’s first serious Pro 14 fixture of the season. After an underwhelming one sided contests against Benetton and Cheetahs, Munster knew that this fixture would be a good gauge of where the squad was at, how the young players would react on the road and attempt to open daylight between themselves and Ospreys, a side who always are competitive against Munster and who will be a chief conference challenger this season.

Munster started the game with gusto. Kleyn continuing to be a wrecking ball in contact. His work rate and physicality creating some excellent platform for Munster forward colleagues to create further gain line breaks. An early penalty was scant reward for a promising opening period.

The hosts to their credit responded with aplomb; a superb try from James Hook who evaded several wannabe Munster defensive efforts to score. Munster will be disappointed with the try concession; line speed was slow and disorganized. Farrell making a hit on Davies created a wide opening in defense and someone of the caliber of James Hook was going to punish the lapse.

Sam Davies slotted over the conversion and Munster were asked their first key question of the season. Could they regroup and put Ospreys under pressure? Munster’s pack took the onus and the powerful lineout / maul setup Kleyn to crash over. Bleyendaal recovered from a shaky start (1/3) to slot over the conversion. Game on.

Munster continued to ask questions of the Ospreys whose kicking game was aimless at times. Munster’s second try was superbly executed. Conway with a superb aerial win. Farrell with the pace to create the line break; the impressive Sean O’Connor whose support and running had Munster right on the try line. The incisive pass from Taute realizing space out wide to Sweetnam to score in the corner.

Bleyendaal missed the conversion and significantly mother nature decided to unload with torrential rain for the rest of the contest. 15-7. It was now a contest where the kick game and pack exchanges would be absolute key. Ospreys and Munster exchanged penalties early in the second half and Munster management decided to call ashore the front row unit with mixed results.

Credit to the Ospreys front row; they were inconsistent in the first half but responded to the challenge in the third quarter forcing two more penalties which the impressive Sam Davies from the tee converted. Munster from a position of strength were now looking for composure and game management and Bleyendaal responded after a shaky third quarter to provide territorial gains in the wet, inclement conditions.

Munster’s pack then were summoned to make incursions deep into the Ospreys territory. Several phases of play thwarted by excellent Ospreys defense. A stalemate looked likely but then Munster won a penalty straight in front of the posts which was converted and gave room to breathe in the last five minutes.

Given the conditions, ball handling was an occupational hazard. Both sides tried to pass the ball with pace but the weather conditions saw many unforced errors as defenses were on top. The kicking game was a sort of concern for both sides. Ospreys back line contained the likes of Hook, Allen, Giles, Evans but the ball distribution at times was lacking from the half backs.

A key moment of the game in the third quarter saw Sam Davies with a key decision to make. Thirty meters out from Munster’s line, Davies had options outside but chose to kick a diagonal to the corner which was taken with ease by Munster. Ospreys line breaks were at a premium and the line break from Giles at the death was a probably keynote moment in the second half. The exciting winger was bundled into touch and the game was over.

Ospreys will look to their Lions contingent to provide leadership and increased quality in all facets of play but the game plan was limited against Munster; expected Ospreys to unleash Allen and Hook throughout but Allen was a peripheral figure which was strange, a player of great potential. Biggar was introduced late in the day but it was not long enough to turn the game to the hosts favor. Ospreys if they can improve their attacking lines will be a threat in the league. A disappointing two week period but the Welsh region will bounce back, still a key player in the conference A standings.

Munster will be happy to be tested seriously by the Ospreys. The game was hindered by the inclement weather conditions but the team passed their road trip test with an workmanlike performance. The kicking game at times was a mixed bag; penalty misses were unexpected and surely gives Keatley and Hanrahan hope that the ten jersey is very much alive. The kicking game from hand was inconsistent; a couple of balls going dead allowing Ospreys good field position which the hosts failed to capitalize upon.

The pack was good throughout. The scrum had their moments in both periods. The breakdown work was decent throughout and Justin Tipuric although prominent did not have a game winning performance. Credit in this respect goes to the mobile back row on duty. O’Connor, O’Donoghue and O’Donnell provided work rate and clear out. The back line were starved at times of quality possession but Chris Farrell’s cameo will have Munster fans excited.

The ex-Grenoble player cameo for the second Munster try, his work rate and tackle count showed all his key attributes. The three quarter position suddenly has depth and it will be intriguing to see who Erasmus and management plumb for in the ERC fixtures next month. Rory Scannell’s kick game at twelve adds a new dimension to Munster. Taute is abrasive and a line breaker. Earls and Goggins when fit comes into the equation.

Munster’s first serious contest this season. An early road trip win to complement the form of late last season. A trip to Glasgow Warriors will be another excellent early season test; do not be fooled by the Warriors narrow win over the Blues; the Scottish team will be riled up to face Munster and the Irish province should expect plenty next Friday. A solid start to the campaign for Munster; good start and gives the interim management in the New Year time to settle with early season wins in the bank.