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Beaten Munster Cling On For Bonus Point

Beaten Munster Cling On For Bonus Point

The Ospreys secured their first ever Heineken Cup victory over Munster but despite encountering problems in the scrum, Tony McGahan’s men did enough to prize a losing bonus point away from a chilly Liberty Stadium.

Dan Biggar produced an impressive place-kicking performance, landing four penalties and converting his half-back partner Mike Phillips’ try as the race for Pool 3 domination remains wide open.

Munster shaded the try count through touchdowns from Tony Buckley and Keith Earls, while Ronan O’Gara added a penalty and conversion, but it was up front where the two-time champions lost the game.

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They played second fiddle to a dominant Ospreys scrum, with prop Adam Jones selected as the man-of-the-match.

This livewire pool now heads towards a potentially thrilling climax next month with two final rounds of pool matches, and the Ospreys, Munster and Toulon all hotly contesting top spot.

Biggar’s mature contribution shone in the heat of a feisty contest that occasionally threatened to boil over, but ultimately produced another high octane encounter that has become a Heineken Cup trademark.

The Liberty Stadium’s undersoil heating did its job, ensuring a game pivotal to both sides’ qualification hopes went ahead despite South Wales being blanketed by heavy overnight snowfall.

Ireland winger Tommy Bowe moved into midfield for the Ospreys, with Andrew Bishop the player to lose out, while Munster were unchanged following last weekend’s 22-16 win in Limerick.

One notable absentee though, from the Munster matchday squad was regular captain Paul O’Connell who has been suspended for his sending-off six days ago.

Munster made the early running in terms of territory and possession, with O’Gara kicking a penalty, but the Ospreys showed signs of scrummaging dominance when they shunted their opponents backwards.

It resulted in a flare-up involving several players and led to French referee Romain Poite handing out a warning to rival skippers Alun Wyn Jones and Denis Leamy.

Biggar landed a levelling penalty in the 17th minute, but Munster then claimed the game’s opening try when they capitalised on poor defending from the Ospreys.

Centre Sam Tuitupou blew apart the initial defensive line, before Leamy did brilliantly to gather his pass and keep the move going. With the home line in sight, giant prop Buckley rumbled over between the posts.

O’Gara converted, yet the Ospreys did exactly what they needed to do by responding with a try of their own just three minutes later.

Slick passing at pace took the Ospreys deep into opposition territory, before Phillips seize his opportunity to wrestle his way over from close range under a pile of bodies. Confirmation of the try came from television match official Jean-Claude Levrier.

Biggar’s successful conversion tied it up at 10-10, before his second penalty edged Ospreys ahead, securing a 13-10 interval advantage their set piece authority merited.

Munster began the second period by exerting sustained pressure inside the Ospreys 22, and it took a mighty defensive effort to repel wave after wave of red-shirted attackers.

Tony McGahan’s men blew a clear overlap on the right, preferring to keep it tight and Bowe was in the thick of it as Munster were held up over the try-line.

The Ospreys were up to the task though, initially clearing their lines through turnover ball and then gaining a penalty after Mick O’Driscoll, one of Munster’s best players on the day, ran aggressively through an inviting midfield channel.

As if to underline Munster’s points-scoring failure, Biggar rifled over a superb long range penalty that made it 16-10, but just when the Ospreys looked as if they might have weathered the storm, back came their opponents.

A touch of class by former All Black Doug Howlett saw him chip the ball exquisitely over the Ospreys’ defence, and Earls accepted a nice bounce and dived in for his side’s second try.

O’Gara saw his conversion attempt bounce back off the left hand post, but Earls’ score guaranteed a tense, tight final quarter.

In the end, another Biggar penalty was enough to seal the win for the Welshmen, but Munster thwarted relentless late Ospreys pressure to keep hold of what could prove to be a priceless losing bonus point. They held on despite having replacement Lifeimi Mafi yellow carded in the last minute for a dangerous tackle.