Munster remain top after edging to victory at Ospreys
Darren Sweetnam was among the try scorers.
Munster came out on top in a tight battle with Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium as the Irish side’s 19-13 victory kept them top of Conference A of the Guinness PRO14.
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Visiting tries came from Darren Sweetnam, a penalty score and Mike Haley with JJ Hanrahan kicking the rest of the points for the men in red at the Liberty Stadium.
Ospreys head coach Allen Clarke admitted before kick-off his team were playing to show they deserve to retain their status in Welsh rugby amid continuing financial uncertainty.
They certainly gave it everything as Hanno Dirksen crossed and Luke Price kicked two penalties and a conversion, but it was not enough.
Returning Ireland international Tadhg Beirne – playing his first game since January 21 following a knee injury – started like a train and his ripped turnover gave Munster possession.
Beirne was sensational as he played the full 80 minutes to win the man-of-the-match award and hand Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt a timely reminder of his qualities.
The early pressure Beirne created was turned into points as Hanrahan’s looped pass gave Sweetnam a facile finish. The pass did look suspiciously forward, but the try was given and Hanrahan converted.
In front of a sparse crowd, a kicking battle ensued and while Munster had more of the possession, Ospreys managed to hang in the contest and they were soon level.
A neat back line move involving Dan Evans set Keelan Giles racing away and the winger kicked ahead where the loose ball was picked up by Dirksen.
TMO Ian Davies checked the score to see if the interfering Matthew Aubrey had been offside, but the try was given and Price converted.
Ospreys fly-half Price then added a sweetly-struck penalty to put his team ahead. But that lead did not last.
Munster were soon back ahead as, straight from the restart, their powerful forwards bashed away at the line, forcing Ospreys flanker Sam Cross to cynically attempt to prevent the try from an offside position. Cross was yellow carded and a penalty try was given.
It meant Munster went to the break 14-10 to the good.
Ospreys were forced into changes for the second half with Rob McCusker and Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler replaced by Lloyd Ashley and James Hook.
Cross returned to the field with his team still only four points behind and the game was on a knife edge with Sweetnam the game’s real livewire in attack.
Price’s penalty made it a one-point game, but Munster did enough to win and they scored their third try when forward pressure saw the ball spread wide for Haley to finish and secure the win.