The 43 – 9 win over The Ospreys at the weekend was a brutal reminder from Munster that they are the undisputed heavyweights of Europe.
Moreover, it demonstrated that the champions can demolish a side wtih pace in attack, with creativity and spark from any number of talented backs, and not just through an all-controlling forward-dominated gameplan.
The Ospreys were left powerless in the face of the red onslaught, particularly with James Hook missing several kicks at goal. In the second half, having edged into a lead, Munster were able to let loose with a fast-paced attack with offloads in the tackle to yet more runners in the shape of Doug Howlett, Paul Warwick, Keith Earls and even David Wallace, who was able to display his speed as he popped up out wide every now and then.
In particular, Lifeimi Mafi was phenomenal all afternoon, carrying strongly in tight situations, breaking free in the loose, and forcing turnovers at will, rippling the ball from an Ospreys attacker on at least two occasions.
Others followed Mafi in the defensive effort: scrum-half Tomas O’Leary managed to scythe down Shane Williams whenever he threatened to step clear of the first tackler, whilst the back row of Alan Quinlan, Denis Leamy and Wallace frequently put their side back in possession. Leamy was heroic in stifling one key ospreys attack, to such an extent that he was rewarded with a slap around the head from the giant hands of Paul O’Connell – enough to lift anyone’s game I would think.
With such a prolific cast of players, and exuding Irish confidence delivered by the Six Nations Grand Slam, Munster appeared to be unstoppable on Saturday. They now face Leinster in the all-Irish semi-final and are likely to prove too much of a handful.
The Dublin-based team overcame Harlequins at The Stoop thanks to a ferocious defensive effort that absorbed the Home side’s best efforts from five yards for what seemed like an eternity. They’ll need to be as determined, if not more so, if they are to trouble the mighty Munster.