Munster dig deep again as Kilcoyne’s late try secures win in Wales
Rassie Erasmus’s side go back top of Pro 12 table after victory away to Ospreys
Munster number eight Jack O’Donoghue scores his side’s first try in the Guinness Pro 12 game against Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea. Photograph: Simon King/Inpho/Camerasport
Ospreys 23 Munster 25
Tyler Bleyendaal booted Munster to a last-gasp victory over Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium to send Rassie Erasmus’ men back to the top of the Guinness Pro12 table.
The captain and out-half converted Dave Kilcoyne’s 78th minute try to win the game for the visitors, and Bleyendaal believes his team will take real confidence from the way they fought themselves back into a match in which they spent almost the entire first half on the back foot.
Munster had to come from 17-3 down after 24 minutes to seal victory, Bleyendaal showing nerves of steel to step up and add the extras to Kilcoyne’s effort with almost the last play of the game. The 80 minutes in Swansea showed the level of mental toughness within this Munster squad as they defied a host of absentees to end the Ospreys’ 13-match unbeaten run.
A delighted Bleyendaal said: “I’m relieved but also proud we pulled ourselves out of a hole against a top side like the Ospreys. It was a tough game and we’re very happy.
“We stuck to it and believed in our opportunities. Our guys play for each other and we know we might not win every game, but if we stay together we have a chance. The Ospreys put on an amazing first 20 minutes of rugby and it was clear they were here to play.
“We’ll enjoy this one and we’ll take a lot of confidence from this. It probably wasn’t the greatest performance and we can be better and more accurate, but when you play a team like the Ospreys you can’t be perfect the whole time.
“It was a great result in the end and this is an extremely tough place to get a win so we’re excited about that.”
Munster’s resolve was tested to the full in a first half which saw Hanno Dirksen and Kieron Fonotia score early on for the Ospreys. Sam Davies booted two conversions and two penalties and at that stage the visitors were up against it.
But Erasmus’ men stuck to their guns - making a mammoth total of 105 tackles in the first half alone - and eventually got their rewards in attack. Jack O’Donoghue and centre Francis Saili both crossed within five minutes of each other and Bleyendaal’s boot ensured only a two-point half-time deficit.
In a tight second period, Davies’ penalty just before the hour mark looked like giving Ospreys the win. But Munster refused to go away and incessant late pressure saw them finally find a way over the line as prop Kilcoyne dotted down for the game’s vital score.
It was just reward for their refusal to buckle under pressure and while there remains a lot of rugby to be played, this victory was the sort of result that often ends up defining successful league campaigns. Bleyendaal converted Kilcoyne’s effort to seal the win and leave Erasmus delighted.
The South African director of rugby said: “We’re very relieved. The game could have gone either way so to come away to a team which has been on such a good run and get the win is really pleasing.
“I feel if you win away games it gives you a lot of confidence. Even if we had lost this game we’d have taken positives from the way we fought back.
“The Ospreys were cutting us to pieces and they’re a difficult team to stop. They were running great lines and we made some silly errors in our half of the field. The challenge now is to stop doing that but we showed lots of guts and that makes me proud to be part of the team.”
Munster’s win left Ospreys boss Steve Tandy frustrated at the refereeing of Italian official Marius Mitrea, but that won’t bother the men in red who have lost only two league games all season.
It leaves them three points clear of Leinster at the Pro12 summit, with Ospreys in third. A tight end to the season is expected but with Scarlets up next, Erasmus is targeting a home play-off semi-final.
He said: “The brand of rugby the Ospreys play is unbelievable. That’s why the win is particularly pleasing because it’s one of the toughest defensive challenges we’ve had.
“The top four spot is the first milestone we want to reach because we weren’t there last year. To get a home semi-final would be great but over the next few weeks there are so many top teams playing each other. We’ll just focus on the Scarlets next and try and win that one.”
Ospreys: Evans (Leonard 52); Giles (John 54), Fonotia, Beck, Dirksen; Davies, Habberfield (capt); Smith (James 63), Baldwin (Parry 54), Jones (Suter 58), Ashley (Ardron 66), Thornton, Cracknell (Baker 53), Underhill, King
Replacement not used: Price
Munster: Keatley (Conway 46); Sweetman, Saili, Scannell, O’Mahony (Goggin 73); Bleyendaal (capt), Williams; Kilcoyne (McCabe 79), Marshall (O’Byrne 54), Ryan (Archer 75), O’Shea (Foley 46), Holland, O’Callaghan, O’Donnell (Oliver 71), O’Donoghue
Replacement not used: Griesel