Munster shoot down Ospreys
Second-half superiority leads hosts to victory at Thomond Park
By Alex Williams. Last Updated: 12/12/10 3:40pm
O'Gara: Mixed performance with boot
Munster moved further clear at the top of Heineken Cup Pool Three after claiming a 22-16 win over the Ospreys at Thomond Park.
The hosts fell five points behind at the beginning of the second half as a Tommy Bowe interception sparked a tense and scrappy game into life.
The Munster response was emphatic, with David Wallace and Johne Murphy both scoring tries as the Welsh outfit ran out of steam as the match wore on.
Dan Biggar's kicking did ensure the Ospreys gained a losing bonus point, however, while the returning Paul O'Connell was shown the red card late on to add another small blemish for Munster, who are four points clear on top of the pool with London Irish and Toulon still to play.
The visitors opened the scoring with only two minutes on the clock as fly-half Biggar slotted over a penalty to make it 3-0.
The Ospreys continued to look the livelier in the opening stages as they attempted driving runs through midfield but the home side eventually got going.
Munster scrum-half Tomas O'Leary picked the ball up from a ruck before threading a neat kick through the back of the defence, which Doug Howlett picked up and ran in for the try.
Ronan O'Gara missed the conversion from out wide on the right, meaning Ospreys had an immediate chance to retake the lead as Muster went off their feet at a ruck in the 12th minute.
Biggar duly slotted the penalty through the posts to make it 6-5, but his opposite number O'Gara continued to misfire shortly afterwards when Ospreys did not roll away after the tackle.
The hosts were still looking threatening, but Ireland international O'Gara squandered another chance to put his side back in the lead when he sent a relatively easy penalty wide of the posts.
The Welsh side would not be under the cosh for long, however, and almost scored their first try when Bowe came within inches of collecting a great kick through by Biggar.
But Munster were awarded another penalty on the stroke of half-time and O'Gara finally got his first points on the board to send the hosts into the interval 8-6 up.
Munster made a whirlwind start to the second half as they pressured the Ospreys try-line but one errant pass changed the complexion of the game.
Centre Sam Tuitupou's ambitious heave out wide was picked off by Bowe, who raced almost the full length of the pitch to score under the posts.
But the home side continued to apply the pressure and were finally rewarded in the 59th minute when flanker Wallace powered his way over the try-line and O'Gara added the extras to make it 22-13.
Munster had opted not to go for goal despite numerous infringements from the opposition, which led to prop Paul James being sent to the sin bin.
Ospreys were made to pay for numerical disadvantage when O'Leary picked up a loose ball and played in Johne Murphy for a decisive score, which O'Gara once again converted.
There was renewed hope for the visitors when Biggar slotted over another penalty and O'Connell, who has only recently returned from injury, was sent off for swinging his arm into the face of Jonathan Thomas.
But Munster stood firm in the closing 10 minutes as they held on to the victory, although Ospreys can take some consolation from the losing bonus point.