Lessons learned from the European Cup defeat by Saracens were used to good effect in this game as Munster powered past Ospreys with a superb tactical display.
Munster 23 Ospreys 3 Guinness Pro12 semi final
Munster director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus, and his assistant Jacques Nienaber had prepared well for the arrival of the Welsh side. Ospreys dominated the opening 20 minutes while the home side soaked up the pressure, but only registered a Dan Biggar penalty, their only score for the entire game.
Munster’s defence was rock solid leaving Ospreys with only a few half chances as they patiently waited and hit their opponents on the counter-attack. This season has been a rollercoaster of emotions for Munster. The visit of Ospreys was another big occasion in that famous stadium as Donnacha Ryan bowed out before departing for Racing 92.
The crowd rose to their feet for the big man as his team mates attempted to hoist him onto their shoulders but an embarrassed Ryan was having none of it. It wasn’t his choice to leave, nor was it Munsters. The IRFU refused to renew his contract after 13 years of commitment to the cause.
Francis Saili also playing in front of the Thomond Park faithful for the last time, he got Munster back into the game with a terrific performance and his side’s first try in the 25th minute. Bleyendaal missed the conversion attempt but made amends with a penalty before the break giving Munster an 8-5 lead.
In the second half came a moment of magic when Simon Zebo danced his way to the line for one of the scores of the season. Keith Earls began the move deep in his own half, he offloaded to Saili who found Conor Murray. Earls had placed himself in the outside channel to receive the pass from Murray, he passed to Andrew Conway who looped his pass across to Zebo. The Corkman juggled with the ball as he ran before diving for the line for a great score, Bleyendaal converted giving Munster a 15-3 advantage.
The Kiwi added another penalty on 67 minutes, effectively putting the game beyond Ospreys on 18-3. By now Munster had begun springing their replacements from a very strong bench. Conor Murray was called ashore to be replaced by Duncan Williams. From his first scrum, Williams passed to Andrew Conway who finished in typical fashion with another terrific try in the corner. With the conversion missed, Munster led by 23-3.
Ospreys came close to a consolation try but time ran out for them and Munster duly earned their place in the final against Scarlets. After the game the crowd remained in place as the Munster players came back out to say their farewells to Thomond Park after a season when they experienced the emotional sadness of Anthony Foley’s death and the joy of appearing in two top level semi finals.