Biggar is better for Ospreys but Munster bag precious bonus
Ospreys 19 Munster 15
Sunday 19 December 2010
They beat the freeze and repelled the cold hand of Munster, but the Ospreys allowed their visitors what could yet prove to be a very cosy bonus point.
"Why didn't they take the scrum?" That query was repeated in Swansea last night as fans struggled to reason why their team, whose pack had been in almost embarrassing control of the set piece, had chosen to run two penalties under the Munster posts in the final seconds. The explanation may not suffice.
Alun Wyn Jones, the captain, implied that he had been informed that there was not time for a reset. Surely that was not correct. Not for a line-out, perhaps. But for a scrum? It was a debate to occupy the icy air as the punters focused on a front-row performance by Adam Jones and Co that made the Irish province's proximity on the scoreboard verge on the ridiculous. But that's Munster and the Heineken Cup for you.
What it will all mean will not be known until the finale of this tightest of groups. The Ospreys will be relieved they still have a realistic chance. It had seemed that they might be heading for a premature elimination and a first home defeat in Europe for five years. Fortunately, they had the boot of Dan Biggar. Much has been said about the 21-year-old and the Wales No 10 shirt. On this performance, his admirers should not lose hope. Biggar kicked five out of five – four penalties and a conversion.
Munster won the try-count 2-1 but they were humiliated up front. They had no answer to the efforts of Adam Jones, Paul James and Richard Hibbard, who made it a savage afternoon for the Munster props, Tony Buckley and Wian du Preez. Munster may well have missed the mighty lock Paul O'Connell – the Lions captain was suspended for four weeks after being sent off the Sunday before. Whatever, their deficiencies were glaring.
Yet still the Munstermen were able to pull back the Ospreys' advantage – first when Buckley rumbled over between the posts in the 22nd minute and then when a touch of class by the former All Black wing Doug Howlett in the 58th minute saw him chip the ball over the defence. Keith Earls collected a kind bounce to score.
The Ospreys' scrum-half, Mike Phillips, drove over in the 25th minute – there was more than a suspicion of a double movement and it required the video referee's attention. The try gave the home side a lead they were never to lose, although after Biggar had taken them four points clear there was a chance to claim superiority from these back-to-back matches. Despite so much pressure they could not grasp it. Will it cost them?
Ospreys B Davies (A Bishop, 77); N Walker, T Bowe, J Hook, R Fussell; D Biggar, M Phillips; P James (D Jones, 65), R Hibbard, A Jones, R Jones (I Gough, 65), AW Jones (capt), J Collins, J Thomas, M Holah.
Munster P Warwick; D Howlett, K Earls, S Tuitupou (L Mafi, 66), J Murphy; R O'Gara, T O'Leary (P Stringer, 55); W du Preez, D Varley, T Buckley (J Hayes, 53), D O'Callaghan (D Ryan, 70), M O'Driscoll, J Coughlin (A Quinlan, 55), D Leamy (capt), D Wallace.
Referee R Poite (France).
Try: Phillips. Con: Biggar. Pens: Biggar 4
Tries: Buckley, Earls. Con: O'Gara. Pen: O'Gara
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