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G12 semi final Munster Ospreys sat 14.30

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  • G12 Semi Final - Munster vs Ospreys Sat 23rd May KO 14.30 Sky & TG4

    Hopefully the second last preview of the season and not the last! Munster play in Limerick for the first time in 8 weeks against one of two teams who have beaten us twice this season.

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    Saturday’s playoff will be a great opportunity to win a place in a final, the Ospreys have form in this competition, and have won it 4 times to our 3. They’ve also more wins this season than us 16-15, a better defensive record than us this season conceding 30 tries to our 31 and both their outhalves are in the leading points scorers for the league (although Keatley is top). This will be a very very tight and competitive game.


    Our Form

    Pretty damn good truth be told, Munster are finding their groove one loss in ten. The injuries have all seemed to appear again in a tranche but we will look at further on, 22 out of a possible 25 league points in the last 5 games tells its own story. There is competition for almost every jersey bar the back row and halfbacks going into this weekend and injuries have taken their toll between 6&7. Nonetheless! Looking across the matchday 23 its playing full of confidence and most importantly cohesion, once Munster get inside the opposition 22 its like a red mist descends and a ruthless vicious, gnarly pick and go game gets ramped up until the fatties barrell over or Earls, ROM, Zeebs or Felix start waving for ball way out wide. The ramping of intensity is probably the thing I will remember most about the second half of this season.


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    The returning, and arriving, of additional players since our Euro exit has been critical to our reaching this playoff I believe. John Ryan, Guinazu, Archer, Holland, Mr Angry, Jack, Earls have all been playing out of their skin. Most notable recently in the arrival of Cronin and Mr Angry in Edinburghgame with about a half hour to go, they tore into everything and reinvigorated the rest of the team. The future looks bright for any side with lunatics like Cronin, Ryan and Pom in its pack.


    The injuries are telling though, POM sat out the Dragons game in the last round, and TOD is gone for the season with a hamstring injury picked up the week before in Belfast. Our backrow is the heartbeat of our best play this season, TOD was killing Leinster on his own in the Aviva last October and hasnt really let up since, POM is POM, defiant and irrepressible. On top of which we have seen Dave O’Callaghan get another knee injury when he was finding good form again. The leadership on the sideline have been quite clever and shrewd in their squad management all season and mixed and changed whenever possible to prepare for injury situations, which may be why Ryan was played at 6 in Cork last Saturday.


    It’ll take Munster to be on top if its game to win this playoff, Ospreys utilize a blitz defense (something Munster have always struggled with) and kick a lot of penalties. However, Munster’s maul looks better, its lineout looks stronger and its scrum is better this season. If we can keep it tight we can win, keep the Ospreys in their half and frustrate them away from home. Dont concede stupid penalties and more importantly dont go to sleep after scoring! Allowing it to happen twice in Ravenhill will have stuck in minds since then! Focus after the score, nullify the backlash. As many have pointed out in recent games, once we get pushed through a multiple of phases we have conceded a score or two.


    At the moment the spine of the team is playing superbly, 2-5-8-9-12-15 are all lock solid and full of energy. CJ looks more powerful now than he has ever been, he melts tacklers, his body position into contact is not like anyone we’ve had since Wally, the dip just before the hit is supreme. The maul is intelligent, and manages to peel around itself until they weakspot is found, our restarts are second to none (apart from when Rory Best shadows Paulie) and our wide men are dangerous when given space and time. Its all about our engine room though really, how effective they can be with and without the ball


    Cant bate a bit of cup rugby!


    Their form

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    Went into Rd. 22 on top of the league and thanks to our friends out Wesht ended the regular season in third. On a run of six games unbeaten, including beating us and Glasgow in that six. They’ve only lost five games all season - Ulster, Leinster, Scarlets, Edinburgh and Glasgow.


    Quite a lot of quality in their squad, particularly from the backrow outwards, in Biggar and Webb they have the form halfback pairing in this league. Webb has 11 tries this season, on top of a very very impressive 6N campaign for the man, he is no shrinking violet with the ball at the base of a ruck but his support lines and eye for a gap are second to none, with real pace. He’s also Pro12 players’ player of the year.


    Tipuric is one of the best link men in the league, he has great awareness and continuity play and allowing him a free reign without a plan to nullify him would lead to major concerns. Even the game in Thomond at the start of the season showed how the Ospreys like to play very flat on the gainline. Biggar to Bishop to Tipuric put Hassler in for a responding try after we had scored through Van Den Heever. They have their own totemic leader in Alun Wyn Jones, who said today:


    In all seriousness, some of the performances we have put in as a team have been some of the high points of my career, let alone the season. It’s nice doing it against the odds.
    We have been potentially performing beyond our years as a group. I saw someone tweeted at the weekend that I was the oldest player in the team at the grand old age of 29! It’s just been great to be part of something like this season, particularly given the number of experienced guys that departed last summer.


    They wont be feeling the weight of expectation that the home side may do, and its all on the day in a knockout game. When you look at Baldwin, WJones, Tipuric, Lydiate, Biggar and Webb they wont be too fearful of coming to Thomond Park, nor too unfamiliar with our own international contingent.


    Needless to say my preview of their form pales in comparison to JB1973’s once again supreme preview:

    "First of all delighted to be in the play offs after losing so many big names in the summer (4 lions adam,hibbard,evans and ryan jones)


    huge challenge against the form team in the pro 12, in front of a packed tp and proably the best atmosphere of any pro 12 ground.


    Your two main men are murray (best 9 in the world for me right now) and POC (still turning out world class displays and a man we know will deliver on the big occasion) I'm also very wary of earls on his current form he is back to his 2009 best


    From our point of view We have to be positive, we are not here to make up the numbers, we have some top players of our own (awj, tupric, webb and biggar spring to mind) and it's time for us to prove it.


    In recent weeks we have played a lot more rugby and against you guys We have to look to play a 15 man game, you maybe without a recginised 7 so it makes sense for ts to try and use tupric speed at the breakdown to get quick ball and get walker and hopefully a fit again hassler in space and try to score trys .


    I want to see more of the inventive line out moves we saw vs glasgow, short kick offs, tap and go and break the game as much as possible.


    I want to see baker and webb carrying the ball and looking to make pom tackle instead of allowing him to come in as the second man and get over the ball. Baker is a big guy but he can shift and he has good feet, if we get him on the front foot he will give anyone problems, and we tend to score a lot of points from breaks he makes


    Clearly we cannot throw the ball around from everywhere and there are times we will have to kick. However it;s pointless kicking to touch against a side with your driving line out . So If we have to kick then i want to see us keep it in play and see our players challenging for the high ball, biggar walker and evans are all very good at competing for the high ball , so lets put pressure on the likes of earls and jones in your back 3, Instead of allowing poc to claim the ball and see you maul us into giving away points and possible yellow cards.


    In defence we have to smash everything in red, i want to see lydiate play 6 and hit stander and murray every time they gets their hands on the ball.


    We have to defend likes wales did vs ireland in that second half, munster have pace on the wings but your centres are not the best handlers of a rugby ball ever so if we blitz well, hopefully we can avoid the ball getting out to earls and if he;s fit zebo.

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