Sean Dougall crossed for an early score and Simon Zebo and James Downey touched down after the break to banish memories of last season’s heavy defeat in Swansea and all but secure a play-off place bar a disastrous end to the season.
“We are really pleased to get a win. But there’s still a long way to go… we are not counting our chickens yet. We still have to play Leinster, Glasgow and Ulster, who are all up there fighting, so anything can happen,” said Munster head coach Rob Penney. “The Liberty Stadium is a difficult place to come. We wore torn apart here last year but we are no longer the team who were here 12 months ago. A number of our boys have not won here before so it’s a wee bit of a special one.”
Leinster’s victory in Cardiff on Thursday had pushed Penney’s men slipped to second in the standings but never looked like staying there once Dougall powered over with barely five minutes on the clock.
Ian Keatley turned down a shot at goal from just 30 metres out, Donnacha Ryan claimed the lineout and the pack drove hooker Duncan Casey onward. Dougall was on hand to supply the finishing touch from just a metre out. The Welsh side conceded just one try in a record-breaking win over Treviso last week but that score came from a lineout and soon-to-be head coach Anthony Foley had clearly done his homework given on an Ospreys pack missing Wales forwards Richard Hibbard, Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric.
Keatley sent over a superb conversion and Munster were in possession of a seven-point lead with as many minutes played.
The fly-half hit the target with his first penalty attempt from the Ospreys’ 10-metre line to make it 10-0 but Sam Davies narrowed the gap two minutes later.
Keatley’s second penalty from 40 metres out restored the two-score advantage after 25 minutes, though, and Munster were in control despite the Ospreys’ determination to keep the ball alive.
Wings Andrew Conway and Zebo displayed their dancing feet on half an hour as Munster showed their own attacking approach but the move came to nothing when Ospreys captain Jonathan Spratt rushed up on Keatley’s cross field kick.
Munster finished the half less impressively than they started and could easily have been behind before the break. Beck eased through for the Ospreys’ opening try when Keatley fell off a tackle inside the 22 after 37 minutes but Munster escaped the opening period with a five-point lead after Davies failed with three successive kicks at goal. The Ospreys full back hit the post shortly before Ashley Beck dived over and followed it up with a straightforward miss moments later.
Munster were on the back foot for most of the second period but never looked in danger of letting their advantage slip once Zebo raced home five minutes after the restart.
Replacement playmaker JJ Hanrahan’s break and heavy hand off gave Downey a glimpse of the line and he carried Aisea Natoga and Tom Haberfield over the whitewash to dismiss Welsh hopes of a comeback.
Hanrahan’s conversion moved Munster two tries clear and, while the bonus-point try never looked likely, Munster held on with ease.
Ospreys scorers: Tries: Beck. Pens: Davies 2.
OSPREYS: Davies, Natoga, Spratt, Beck, Hassler, Morgan, Habberfield, D. Jones, Baldwin, Suter, Parker, King, Ardron, Lewis, Bearman.
Replacements: Tebaldi for Habberfield (74), M. Thomas for D. Jones (77), Dwyer for Baldwin (77), R. Jones for Parker (47), Baker for Bearman (65).
Munster scorers: Tries: Dougall, Zebo, Downey. Cons: Keatley, Hanrahan. Pens: Keatley 2.
MUNSTER: Jones, Conway, Laulala, Downey, Zebo, Keatley, Sheridan, Cronin, Casey, Botha, D. Ryan, D. Foley, O’Donnell, Dougall, Coughlan.
Replacements: D. Hurley for Downey (71), Williams for Sheridan (41), Kilcoyne for Cronin (71), Slattery for Casey (80), D. O’Callaghan for D. Foley (71), Stander for O’Donnell (60).
Ref: David Wilkinson (Ireland).