Five key talking points from the top of the table tussle
Munster never say die attitude to the fore
This was a mixed performance from the men in red. Ospreys should have had this contest out of sight in the first quarter such was their dominance. Two quick fire tries superbly executed by the hosts aided by some defensive breakdowns in line speed and first time tackles had Munster on the ropes but Ospreys intense start subsided to such an extent that the visitors created a platform and scored two quality tries of their own. O’Donoghue and Sailli ball carries and running lines were sublime. 20-18 at the break, hard to believe that the Munster were still in the contest but they were.
Munster’s ability to continue to build phrases and look for space in the last ten minutes was quite admirable; several attacks had broken down due to poor ball protection and unforced errors. Kilcoyne’s try was an excellent effort; his ability to break three Osprey players to touchdown is a potential pivotal event in the Pro 12 season.
Bleyendaal’s conversion was unerring and Munster had stolen victory from the jaws of defeat. The squad is resolute. The management is resolute; united front and the pride in the Munster jersey is restored this season, something potentially may not have being the case last season after such a horrific opening first quarter.
Champions Cup vs. Challenge Cup
Ospreys’ fans were quick to point at the Beck TMO decision as the key turning point of the contest. A try then would have proved near fatal for Munster to get back into the contest but there was still well over twenty minutes plus to go. Ospreys’ attacking lines have being superb all season; they have hit heavy scores in both Pro 12 and ERC Challenge Cup but Ospreys played in spurts yesterday, great opening period but died for fifteen minutes before the interval to allow Munster to get back into the contest. The Challenge Cup, you can possibly get away with a quiet period of play but in the Champions Cup, it is punished. Ospreys should secure a top four place this season and a return to the top table of European Rugby where they will see first hand that any lull in intensity is devastatingly punished. Ospreys will go far in the ERC Challenge Cup but defensively they will need to bring their defense for the full eighty; the hosts failed in this regard and this is what cost them victory yesterday.
Officiating is an occupational hazard; both teams will have gripes with the officiating. As eluded to, the Welsh side will point to the Beck try and also for some high tackles not pinged by the Italian official leading to this decision (Saili cited on February 20th). Munster will point to scrum dominance and no discernible advantage from this set piece.
Mitrea frustrates me as a match official; has all the attributes to be a top class referee and then lets himself down with the question he posed to the TMO on the Bleyendaal try. The question would have indicated a try was the answer but then it was turned down for something not mentioned by the match official during the initial TMO discussion on the decision.
This was a top of the table tussle; come May, a decision like this could decide home field advantage in the playoffs. The TMO decision did not cost Munster but Ospreys will feel rather different. It is a worrying aspect for teams leading into the season run-in. Mitrea has to be better in these situatons or his credibility as a match official will wane at a rate of knots.
Munster – Sloppiness
This was far from a vintage Munster performance. The set piece was decent throughout. Marshall at two is becoming a real viable ball carrier and providing stern competition for Scannell who is on international duty. The defensive breakdowns for the two Ospreys tries were avoidable; defensive line speed was passive in that opening quarter and first time tackling was not on point.
Credit to the side, they made adjustments at the break and was improved in the second half but defensive system failures particularly in April and May will be ruthlessly punished. The lack of ball control and composure in Munster’s play at times was frustrating; the second half saw a flurry of unforced errors where Munster trying to force the issue coughed up ball.
The base of the scrum usually so solid for Munster was inconsistent at best, ball control was an issue and is something that young Jack O’Donoghue needs to improve. All other aspects of play were on point from the Waterford man but he needs to bring more dominance to the base of the scrum with his ball control.
The fortitude of the Munster players to go to the death won the day but video analysis and training paddock will be an interesting place tomorrow.
Pro 12 Weekend Fixtures – One Quality game, one close game and the rest are blowout victories for home teams
Osprey and Munster fixture was a superb advert to the league; despite the fact that both sides were missing several first team starters. The lack of cohesion in these RBS 6N calendar fixtures was non-existent in this fixture, both teams hit the ground running and served up some splendid periods of play.
Ospreys under Steve Tandy are an excellent team and they will be a force to be reckoned with in the business end of the season. If they can beat Glasgow, they take the Warriors out of the playoff picture.
Munster entertain Scarlets next Friday night, a game which has banana skin written all over it for the Irish province. Scarlets have improved immeasurably since Christmas and their performances in ERC action will have issued a massive warning for Munster this week in preparation for the fixture at a Thomond Park which should have had a decent crowd.
The other fixtures were nondescript, several blow out wins and a narrow win for Connacht over the Dragons in a dull encounter. The league needs more competitive games like what was witnessed at the Liberty Stadium. Forty point drubbings is not the order of the day! However, need to mention the Pienaar try for Ulster against Warriors (try of the tournament so far for me).