Ospreys 27-10 Munster
SHANE WILLIAMS was back to his brilliant best as the Ospreys moved a step closer to automatic European qualification at the Liberty Stadium last night.
His brace of tries - the first a super strike - and a late effort from Jason Spice virtually extinguished Munster's hopes of succeeding them as kings of the Celtic League.
Gavin Henson supplied the other 12 points, converting all three tries and adding two penalties during an unblemished display of accurate goal-kicking.
Heineken Cup finalists Munster, who face Biarritz in the European showdown at the Millennium Stadium in a fortnight, couldn't have any complaints about the result because they were outplayed for most of an enjoyable encounter.
Sixth-in-the-table Ospreys have only lost once at home in the league and this success saw them move four points ahead of the Dragons, who benefit from a free weekend "win," and nine clear of the Scarlets.
The bottom Welsh region, unless they are overhauled by either the worst Irish or Scottish finisher, face a play-off next month against the third-placed team in the Italian Championship.
Despite the sun and perfect conditions both sides made too many handling errors early on.
Munster took the lead when Ospreys outside-half Shaun Connor was penalised for not releasing in the 12th minute, master marksman Ronan O'Gara punishing his indiscretion.
Worryingly for Munster, with the Heineken Cup final looming, they lost Ireland's players' player of the year Paul O'Connell.
He went off with an ankle injury.
But they had an ideal replacement in his fellow British Lions Test lock Donncha O'Callaghan.
However, he had barely arrived when they fell behind to a "special" from Williams.
Nigel Davies had revealed, after being appointed Wales attack coach yesterday, one of his goals was to get the best out of the Great Entertainer.
The message must have filtered through to Williams for he conjured a breathtaking score out of virtually nothing.
He attacked around the fringes of a ruck, powering through O'Gara, side-stepping prop Eugene McGovern and leaving scrum-half Mike Prendergast trailing to send a crowd of 7,481 into raptures.
Munster were rocked and Ospreys could have increased their lead had Andrew Bishop not thrown a horrendous pass after penetrating the defence.
They had to be content with a penalty from Henson at the half-hour mark as, too often, they were guilty of committing silly offences while in prime scoring territory.
Passes began to click for Munster with Ireland flanker Denis Leamy and lock Mick O'Driscoll at the forefront of an improved effort.
They hammered away at the Ospreys try-line and home skipper Duncan Jones was sin-binned for pulling down a driving line-out.
Scottish referee Graeme Hannah eventually tired of the Welsh region being persistently offside and awarded a penalty try, to loud booing, which O'Gara converted to draw them level at 10-10.
But Henson fired the Ospreys back into the lead on the stroke of half-time with a penalty after Munster entered a ruck illegally.
Henson was involved as Williams got his second try, supporting Bishop's incursion before the winger was put in the clear.
He had the gas to out-sprint the covering Leamy, Henson converting to give them a 10-point cushion.
Home fans vented their anger when Bishop raced out of defence and chipped Munster full-back Shaun Payne, only to go down in a heap. Hannah decided there hadn't been any contact and waved play on.
But he yellow-carded Munster hooker Denis Fogarty for handling in a ruck as the Ospreys pressed.
Henson drilled the ball into the corner and scrum-half Spice sniped around the back of the line-out which followed for a popular touchdown.
The triumph brought to an end a run of four defeats against the crack Irish province and smiles to the faces of the Ospreys' fans, who were loud and generated a super atmosphere.