A 20-0 first half lead was always going to be a tough ask of Munster. Despite a second half improvement, the Ospreys made off with a bonus point win.
A strong scrum and line out gave the Neath Swansea Ospreys a 20-0 half time lead. Two tries from Christian Cullen and a hard fight from Munster in the second half was not enough to catch the Ospreys.
The new Celtic League season dawned at St Helens with an error ridden affair in which both sides showed summer rustiness. Conditions could not have been better with cricketlike weather and a perfect playing surface at the famous old cricket and rugby ground.
It took 23 minutes for the opening points with a Gavin Henson penalty from 30 metres given when the touch judge spotted a trip on the spiky haired full-back. The officials did not get the number of the perpetrator so Munster hooker Jerry Flannery can consider himself very fortunate not to have been sinbinned in the process.
The only move of note in the opening quarter had been a lovely break from quicksilver wing Shane Williams in which he linked sublimely with his opposite wing Stefan Terblanche but the move petered out as Williams was run into touch.
The opening try of the new season came from Ospreys new New Zealand recruit Jason Spice who pounced to pick up from the back of a ruck set up by a lovely run from Elvis Seveali’i after 35 minutes.
Less than three minutes later, a James Storey pass was beautifully read by Terblanche, grabbing an interception and setting up another new Osprey, David Bishop, with an easy run in to the posts.
In first half stoppage time Jerry Flannery was carded for a retaliatory punch on Andrew Millward and Henson banged over the resulting penalty from inside his own half to give the home side a deserved 20-0 lead at the break.
The Irishmen made a good start to the second period to break their duck with a Paul Burke penalty shot given when Ryan Jones was adjudged to have infringed at a ruck.
The second half continued in scrappy fashion with neither side seeming capable of breaching the other’s defence.
Henson stamped his authority on the game by winning the aerial battle with Paul Burke on his first Munster appearance for nine years.
With 12 minutes left a speculative fly hack on by Munster second row Trevor Hogan was not dealt with by Henson. After a cruel bounce, All Black superstar Christian Cullen could not believe his luck as he picked up the rolling ball and ran it in unopposed. Burke’s conversion reduced the deficit to just ten points.
Replacement Adrian Durston scored the Ospreys first points of the second half with just a minute of normal time left when he did well carrying two defenders over the line with him after being given the scoring pass from another replacement Andy Williams, who had made a great break on the outside following a lovely pass from skipper Barry Williams.
Cullen grabbed his second try of the night when Jason Holland put in a cross kick which was brilliantly taken by left wing Anthony Horgan who linked with the prolific New Zealand full-back. Burke’s superb touchline conversion once more cut the lead to just ten points, but five minutes into stoppage time Lyndon Bateman plunged over from short range to grab a try bonus for the Ospreys.
The Ospreys will be pleased with their five point haul as they ran out deserving winners. Munster made too many mistakes and were disappointing except for the always dangerous Cullen.