Munster beat Ospreys to book URC semi-final spot

RG Snyman and Tadhg Beirne celebrate
Table-toppers Munster will have home advantage for the semi-final [Getty Images]

United Rugby Championship quarter-final

Munster: (17) 23

Tries: Zebo, Scannell Cons: Crowley 2 Pens: Crowley 3

Ospreys: (7) 7

Try: Giles Con: Williams

Munster ground their way into the United Rugby Championship semi-finals with a workmanlike victory over Ospreys.

Simon Zebo and Niall Scannell scored first-half tries before the boot of Jack Crowley sealed victory for the defending champions at Thomond Park.

Ospreys were briefly on level terms after Keelan Giles' early try but could not make the most of their scrum dominance.

Munster will host a semi-final on 15 June against either Glasgow Warriors or Stormers, who meet on Saturday night, for a place in the Grand Final.

This was a 10th successive win for Graham Rowntree's side, matching their run of wins en route to lifting the title in 2011 .

Now the four-time champions are looking to claim back-to-back titles for the first time but they will need to sharpen up from this display.

That allowed injury-hit Ospreys to make it a tight contest and they will take solace in giving Welsh rugby a glimmer of hope after a dismal season as the first region in six years to reach the play-offs.

Last season it was Munster who came under the radar to win the title after finishing fifth in the regular season but this season it was Ospreys who blindsided everyone to sneak into the play-offs.

They were given a two percent chance of reaching the knockouts before the final weekend but Edinburgh, Connacht and Lions all lost before Ospreys leapt from 11th to eighth with victory over Cardiff on the last day.

Keelan Giles running
Ospreys failed to score after Keelan Giles' fifth-minute try [Huw Evans Picture Agency]

Ospreys had not won at Thomond Park for 12 years but they felt aggrieved to be trailing 17-7 at half-time.

It looked like it could be worse when Zebo, who knows his next defeat will be his last as he prepares to retire, crossed inside 90 seconds after returning centre Antoine Frisch and number eight Gavin Coombes combined in midfield.

Giles, called into the Wales squad this week, failed to keep out Zebo but made a stunning and swift response to level the scores.

Reuben Morgan-Williams' clever kick with the outside of the boot bounced kindly for Owen Watkin and Morgan Morris sent Giles streaking clear.

These teams have become the embodiment of their coaches who have been locking horns for an age since their days in the English Premiership.

Munster relied on their driving lineout that first saw hooker Scannell regain the lead and then drew a penalty that Crowley converted.

But Ospreys' scrum caused the hosts all sorts of problems and were furious their dominance was not reflected in a contentious penalty call five metres from the Munster line on the stroke of half-time.

Instead Hollie Davidson's whistle blew, Ospreys scratched their heads and Munster's players roared as though they had scored a try.

The hosts spent almost the entire third quarter of the game camped inside the Ospreys half but struggled to breakdown a stubborn defence.

Tadhg Beirne, John Hodnett and Coombes all went close but a defence marshalled by Jac Morgan, Dewi Lake and Morris kept the red jerseys out.

Instead Munster, who steadied the scrum through replacement Oli Jager, relied on the boot of player of the match Crowley who added two penalties.

Their possession may not have yielded points but had the desired effect of suffocating the life out of Ospreys, who simply ran out of puff to muster any sustained threat to pulling off a miracle turnaround for a second week in a row.

Ospreys captain Justin Tipuric said: "We're disappointed. We thought we could have got something just before half-time and that could have made it a different game.

"But Munster are a top side and just ground us down. We gave everything but perhaps the discipline let us down in the second half.

"We don't like to lose but we've reached two quarter-finals this season so hopefully we're heading in the right direction to get this club back to where it belongs."

Munster: Simon Zebo; Calvin Nash, Antoine Frisch, Sean O’Brien, Shane Daly; Jack Crowley, Craig Casey; Jeremy Loughman, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer, RG Snyman, Tadhg Beirne (capt), Peter O’Mahony, John Hodnett, Gavin Coombes.

Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, John Ryan, Oli Jager, Jack O’Donoghue, Alex Kendellen, Conor Murray, Tony Butler, Mike Haley.

Ospreys: Max Nagy; Luke Morgan, Owen Watkin, Keiran Williams, Keelan Giles; Owen Williams, Reuben Morgan-Williams; Nicky Smith, Dewi Lake, Tom Botha, James Ratti, Huw Sutton, Jac Morgan, Justin Tipuric (capt), Morgan Morris.

Replacements: Sam Parry, Gareth Thomas, Rhys Henry, Victor Sekekete, Morgan Morse, Luke Davies, Luke Scully, Harri Houston.

Referee: Hollie Davidson (SRU)

Assistant referees: Andrea Piardi (FIR), Gianluca Gnecchi (FIR)

TMO: Andrew McMenemy (SRU)