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Agony to ecstasy for Munster in thrilling semi-final

Guinness PRO12 Editor 23 May 2015

Josh Matavesi saw his last-minute score ruled out in an astonishing climax to the game at Thomond Park, as Munster clung on to beat Ospreys 21-18 in a nail-biting GUINNESS PRO12 semi-final.

Simon Zebo’s late first-half score gave the hosts an 11-3 advantage at the interval, after Dan Biggar and Ian Keatley had exchanged penalties.

But the game opened up after the break with Denis Hurley and Paddy Butler for Munster, and Rhys Webb and Jeff Hassler all touching down inside a frenetic ten minutes.

With Keatley misfiring – 15 points going begging from the tee in total for Munster – Ospreys stayed in touch, but elation turned to dismay as Matavesi crossed with the clock in the red, only for the TMO to reveal a clear Webb knock-on in the build upOspreys shot out of the blocks and began with aplomb, Biggar showing their intentions from the off with a missed drop-goal attempt inside a minute.

Ospreys battered the Munster try-line, but when Eli Walker broke for the corner he was pinged for holding on, and Munster were able to clear.

And the away side were soon defending hard themselves, Stephen Archer brutally charging through three tackles before losing control of the ball as he crossed the try-line.

But it was Ospreys who opened the scoring when Biggar landed a straightforward penalty on 13 minutes, the hosts pinged for not rolling away from an Ospreys attacking line-out.

Keatley levelled the scores three minutes later, and then put Munster in front on 22 minutes with another simple penalty after his crosskick was collected by Ospreys’ defenders.

The fly-half missed an opportunity from range to put the Munstermen further ahead when Webb was penalised for obstructing Duncan Williams, on for the injured Conor Murray, as he attempted to collect his own kick.

But as it looked as though the game would go into half-time tryless, Zebo charged through on 39 minutes thanks to a wonderful attacking move from the Munster back-line.

From a scrum on halfway CJ Stander was able to offload to Butler, who surged through before finding the winger who finished emphatically in the corner.

And although Keatley’s conversion was wide of the mark, Munster began the second half as they ended the first, building the phases before Hurley got the better of Walker in the corner to touch down.

Munster looked ominous with the ball in hand, but Webb’s sensational 46th minute score gave Ospreys a way back into the game, as he gambled at the back of the scrum and intercepted Stander’s loose pass.

Biggar’s conversion attempt was wide, and the hosts responded to the setback in style with a try of their own, with furious work at the breakdown earning them valuable yards before Williams sent Butler over two minutes later.

Ospreys were not to be outdone, and a rollercoaster five minutes was complete when the returning Hassler collected a loose ball before stepping inside and sprinting through the heart of the field before crossing the whitewash under the posts.

Josh Matavesi’s came agonisingly close to scoring after a 63rd minute break from the midfield, and Biggar made it a three-point game from range with Munster off their feet.

But with eight minutes remaining, Munster elected to kick for goal when Ospreys holding on at the breakdown, and Keatley again missed – his miserable afternoon from the tee ending with just two successful kicks from five.

JJ Hanrahan was thrown into the fray by Anthony Foley, and missed from the tee himself moments later, but the real drama was still to come as Matavesi broke through with the final play of the game to seemingly clinch the game for Ospreys.

But referee Nigel Owens rightly went upstairs, and Webb was adjudged to have knocked-on at the breakdown to break Ospreys’ hearts and send Thomond Park into raptures.

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