McGahan delight as Munster up for the cup

TONY MCGAHAN could not have asked for better preparation for Munster’s Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final than this dramatic victory at the Ospreys.

There are warm-up games against difficult opponents and then there are warm-up games at venues where no Irish team has won for almost two years and the hosts, the reigning Magners League champions, were undefeated since last October.

In the end Munster left it as late with the final kick of the match, but McGahan knows victory at the Liberty Stadium will work wonders for the confidence of his team before facing Harlequins this weekend.

“There’s no doubt that winning away from home against a top European side is going to help with our confidence,” he said.

“The flip side is that we could have looked for a response had we lost, but we will certainly look at the positives of this result.

“Our away form really let us down in the Magners League and in Europe so we know how important it has been to address that. It shows the mark of a quality team to be able to win on the road consistently.”

This was Munster’s fifth successive victory on the road and the second in a week in west Wales that has booked a home tie in the Magners League semi-finals.

Before that date, likely to be against either Cardiff Blues or Ulster, Munster have another European semi-final to take care of against Harlequins at Thomond Park.

Certainly there was plenty about the first-half to build confidence from, given how comfortable Munster were for 40 minutes. Both Keith Earls and Lifeimi Mafi came within fingertips of scoring before David Wallace followed up Damien Varley’s charge to score the game’s opening try.

Try-scorer Wallace said: “This was a good way to prepare for Europe. Coming through the right side of very tight games has been the story of our last few weeks.

“At this stage of the season, it’s very important to be able to grind out those results and one of the good things about this team is that we never give up or throw in the towel This was always going to be a close game and a tight finish but we did seem to be running out of time. However the game is never over until the final whistle and we got that late penalty.”

However Wallace admitted that the Ospreys gained the upper-hand in many of the rucks around the field while conceding a penalty try from a scrum five metres from their own try line will have been duly noted in west London.

“It’s not too much of a concern. I actually thought we had the edge in a few of the scrums earlier and we were unlucky not to get a penalty. But on that particular scrum, they got the edge and in that position, it’s hard for a referee not to give a penalty try.”

That try saw Munster’s 13-10 lead become a 17-13 deficit but they successfully steadied the ship and O’Gara became gradually more influential.

A brace of penalties put Munster a point ahead before James Hook looked to have settled the tie, particularly when O’Gara was left with his head in his hands as he pulled his late drop goal to the left of the posts.

But with little more than a minute remaining, Ospreys replacement Jerry Collins swung a forearm into the face of Felix Jones and Munster smelled blood for one final attack.

O’Gara missed his second drop goal attempt, but in their eagerness to block the kick, a handful of Ospreys had jumped the gun and the fly-half stroked over the winning penalty with the final kick of the game.

Munster will be hoping not to leave to leave it as late next weekend.

OSPREYS: L Byrne, N Walker, T Bowe, J Hook, R Fussell, D Biggar, R Webb (M Phillips, 73); R Bevington, R Hibbard, A Jones, I Gough, AW Jones (c), J Tipuric, J Thomas, M Holah.

Replacements: A Bishop for Byrne (28), R Jones for Gough (17-28, 46), P James for Bevington (54), J Collins for Holah (72), D Jones for A Jones (72), S Parker for Biggar (72), M Phillips for Webb (73).

MUNSTER: F Jones, D Howlett, L Mafi, P Warwick, K Earls, R O’Gara (c), C Murray; M Horan, D Varley, J Hayes, I Nagle, D O’Callaghan, D Ryan, J Coughlan, D Wallace.

Replacements: T Buckley for Hayes (ht), W Du Preez for M Horan (50), T O’Donnell for Nagle (58), M Sherry for Varley (62), P Stringer for Murray (62), S Zebo for Warwick (66),

Referee: Jerome Garces (France).

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