Ospreys beat Cardiff to earn shock play-off at Munster

Luke Morgan celebrates
Luke Morgan's try sealed the bonus-point win for Ospreys [Huw Evans Picture Agency]

United Rugby Championship

Cardiff (12) 29

Tries: Cabango, Grady 2, Hamer-Webb Cons: De Beer, Thomas 2 Pen: Thomas

Ospreys: (12) 33

Tries: Smith 2, Tipuric, Morgan, Penalty Cons: Edwards 3

Ospreys clinched a shock place in the United Rugby Championship (URC) play-offs with a bonus-point victory over rivals Cardiff.

Toby Booth's side began the weekend in 11th place and requiring a remarkable series of results to break into the top eight.

But defeats for Connacht, Edinburgh and Lions opened the door for the Swansea-based region to snatch a dramatic late play-off berth.

They will face league leaders Munster in Limerick next Friday after seizing that chance with a five-try victory in the second of Saturday's Judgement Day matches at Cardiff City Stadium.

It is the first time a Welsh region has been in the URC knock-outs since 2018 and gives Welsh rugby a desperately needed lift after a hugely disappointing season.

The bonus-point win took Ospreys level on points with Lions, but they moved into eighth courtesy of a 10th win, one more than the South African side.

Nicky Smith (twice), Justin Tipuric and Luke Morgan all crossed before a late penalty try sealed the win.

Cardiff hit back through Theo Cabango before Mason Grady scored twice either side of Gabriel Hamer-Webb's try.

But Cabango limped off with a worrying injury and Seb Davies was sent off in the 79th minute of a dramatic game.

'Significant achievement'

"When you consider the backdrop of what been happening with the financial state of the game in Wales and losing established players, this is a significant achievement," said Ospreys head coach Toby Booth.

"We knew we needed results to go our way, but if you don't believe then why are you doing something?

"It's a reward for having a resilient mindset but also for sticking to our mission of playing an exciting brand of rugby with homegrown players.

"Now we go to Munster and knock-out rugby is all about who delivers on the day. We're in it and we'll try to find a way."

That four of Ospreys’ five tries came from forwards while all four Cardiff scores came from wings said much of the contrasting strengths of these teams.

But there was nothing to separate them with the teams locked at 12-12 at half-time.

Smith barged over inside six minutes but Cardiff had plenty of aces behind the scrum and Cabango produced a contender for try of the season.

With an angled run, he scythed through the Ospreys defenders before stretching out of Keelan Giles' last ditch tackle to score behind his back.

Ecstasy turned to agony in the space of five minutes for the young wing who suffered a suspected hamstring injury when he was wrong-footed by a bouncing ball.

A scan on Monday will decide whether his hopes of a place in Warren Gatland's summer tour squad, due to be named on Monday, may have been cruelly dashed.

Theo Cabango scoring a try
Theo Cabango scored a stunning solo try but limped off moments later [Huw Evans Picture Agency]

Ospreys regained the lead on 30 minutes following a crazy passage of play in which Cardiff attacked from behind their own try line, but ended with Tipuric's sublime score.

Giles drew in three defenders before Dan Edwards' audacious reverse pass was juggled by Tipuric who touched down with a fingertip finish.

But Wales full-back Cam Winnett was growing increasingly influential for Cardiff.

After going close to setting up Grady, he created the space for impressive hooker Evan Lloyd and Ben Thomas to combine for Grady to dive over.

Ospreys began the second half as they did the first with prop Smith powering in.

And when Morgan sailed over on 63 minutes, Ospreys were eying a top eight finish.

But replacement Hamer-Webb cut the deficit to 26-22 to set up a nervy finish until Seb Davies was sent off for a dangerous tackle on Owen Watkin and Ospreys' line-out forced a penalty try that sparked celebrations among the visitors’ ranks.

A frantic closing passage saw Ospreys’ Luke Davies shown a yellow card and Grady barge over again - his eighth try of the season.

But Ospreys attention now turns to to an unlikely knock-out tie against Munster.

'Great for Welsh rugby'

Cardiff head coach Matt Sherratt said: "People asked me beforehand if we wanted to take eighth place away from them but I'm happy for them.

"It's good for Welsh rugby to have a team in the play-offs and I genuinely think they can beat Munster away. I don't think many team would like to play them right now."

He added: "The game was a great advert for regional rugby, especially after a fair bit of negativity. You had two sets of players proud to wear their shirts and really going for it."

Cardiff: Cameron Winnett; Theo Cabango, Rey Lee-Lo, Ben Thomas (capt), Mason Grady; Tinus de Beer, Ellis Bevan; Rhys Carre, Evan Lloyd, Keiron Assiratti, Shane Lewis-Hughes, Rory Thornton, Ben Donnell, James Botham, Alun Lawrence.

Replacements: Efan Daniel, Corey Domachowski, Rhys Litterick, Seb Davies, Lopeti Timani, Willis Halaholo, Jacob Beetham, Gabriel Hamer-Webb

Sin bin: Donnell (49)

Red card: Davies (76)

Ospreys: Max Nagy; Luke Morgan, Owen Watkin, Keiran Williams, Keelan Giles; Dan Edwards 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, Harri Deaves, Luke Davies, Owen Williams, Harri Houston.

Sin bin: Davies (79)

Referee: Adam Jones

Assistant referees: Maickel English, Elgan Williams (WRU)

TMO: Tom Spurrier (WRU)