Munster welcome Ospreys to Irish Independent Park this weekend and there is plenty on the line for both sides.
The hosts – under new boss Johan van Graan – need to keep pace with runaway leaders Glasgow Warriors while the Ospreys are slumping dangerously this season.
They hit rock bottom last weekend when Glasgow Warriors put them to the sword at the Liberty Stadium and now take on a Munster side they have only beaten once in their last seven clashes.
But as we dive into the history books for our Throwback Thursday piece you will see that there is more than enough cause for optimism for Steve Tandy’s side.
May 2017 – PRO12 play-off semi-finals
Munster 23-3 Ospreys
By quirk of form and fixtures, at the end of this weekend these two sides will have met four times in 2017 in the league alone.
But the biggest of those clashes came back in May on the eve of The British & Irish Lions Tour in the league semi-finals.
And it was Munster who secured their passage to the final after getting the better of Ospreys in a tense semi-final at Thomond Park.
Munster had led at the break following man of the match Francis Saili’s 26th-minute score, while Dan Biggar and Tyler Bleyendaal traded penalties as both sides took stock of what was at stake.
Indeed that mentality carried right through to the second half, right until a moment of Munster magic saw Simon Zebo make it 15-3 with just 18 minutes left on the clock.
And it proved too much for Ospreys to come back from as Andrew Conway scored late on to give Donnacha Ryan the perfect farewell in his final at Thomond Park.
But the Guinness PRO12 regular season table-toppers – bidding for their fourth title – went on to the RDS were their dreams were ended by the Scarlets.
February 2017 – PRO12 regular season
Ospreys 23-25 Munster
Earlier this year Munster returned to the top of the league table after a last-gasp David Kilcoyne try gave the Irish outfit victory over Ospreys.
Kilcoyne crossed with just three minutes left on the clock, Tyler Bleyendaal adding the extras, as the sides played out a riveting clash at the Liberty Stadium.
Hanno Dirksen crossed for the first try of the game and Kieron Fonotia was over soon after as the Welsh region dominated the early stages.
But Ashley Beck’s two disallowed tries – one in each half – turned the tide and from a 17-3 deficit Munster came storming back.
Jack O’Donoghue dotted down before the interval and when Francis Saili followed suit it was 20-18.
And in the second half it was nip and tuck into Kilcoyne’s intervention that moved the Munstermen back to the summit.
February 2016 – Pro12 regular season
Munster 17-21 Ospreys
Munster slipped to their first defeat at Irish Independent Park for three years as Sam Davies inspired Ospreys to come from behind and grind out victory.
The Irish province have an impressive record at the Cork venue and they began well, with Duncan Williams opening the scoring with the first try.
Sam Davies hit back before Francis Saili and Robin Copeland crossed over either side of the break to put the hosts in charge.
However, Owen Watkin climbed off the bench to pull a try back and the boot of fly-half Davies saw them over the line, moving the Ospreys to within three points of the GUINNESS PRO12 top six.
May 2015 – PRO12 play-off semi-finals
Munster 21-18 Ospreys
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 up and put Munster through to another final.
May 2012 – PRO12 play-off semi-finals
Ospreys 45-10 Munster
But back in 2012 it was a different story.
Shane Williams’ Ospreys swansong went from strength to strength after the Welsh region romped past defending champions Munster 45-10 and into the PRO12 final.
League top scorer Dan Biggar scored 25 points including an excellent try, taking him over 1,000 for the Ospreys, while scores from Hanno Dirksen, Andrew Bishop, Rhys Webb and a superb effort from Kahn Fotuali’i sealed an emphatic win for the 2010 champions.
Williams was denied a first-half try despite crossing the whitewash – the touch judge ruling his foot was out of play as he dashed into the corner – but with Munster, sorely missing absent captain Paul O’Connell, the Ospreys’ fleetness of foot was too much for the Irish province to handle.
And it proved sweet revenge for the Ospreys, who were beaten by Munster 12 months ago at Thomond Park at the same stage of the competition, and went on to win the title thanks to Williams late score at the RDS to down Leinster.
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