Unwanted Wales fullback Gavin Henson produced a superb performance in the Neath-Swansea Ospreys' heart-stopping 33-26 victory over the Irish heavyweights at the St Helen's ground in Swansea. The brilliant 21-year-old was solid on defence, powerful in attack and slotted seven goals as he took advantage of a Munster side missing 13 first-choice players because of World Cup duty. Ahead 23-12 at halftime, the Ospreys were in control for much of the match, scoring tries at regular intervals to keep the visitors at bay.
A late try to Munster fullback Jeremy Staunton - his second of the match - narrowed the margin to seven points, and the 5,000-strong crowd had to survive eight minutes of injury time as the Irish side pressed for the equalising try.
Munster opened the scoring when the home side fell for a Staunton dummy and the visiting fullback jogged in under the posts. It was Munster's first try of the Celtic League tournament after 184 barren minutes of rugby.
It didn't take long for the Ospreys to hit back. Fly-half Shaun Connor produced a pinpoint kick to the corner and winger Dave Tiueti climbed above opposite number Mossie Lawlor to palm the ball down to centre James Storey for the try. Minutes later, Tiueti ran over the top of Lawlor to score in the right-hand corner, and Henson's sideline conversion gave the Ospreys a deserved 17-7 lead.
Henson added another penalty goal, but Munster came back into the match when unwanted Ireland flanker David Wallace took advantage of a three-man overlap to score. Home scrum-half Andy Williams brought the crowd to their feet early in the second half when he stole the ball out of the back of the Munster scrum and scampered 25 metres unopposed for the Ospreys' third try.
Henson's conversion gave his side an 18-point lead and Munster a mountain to climb to get back into contention. But they tried. Veteran centre Mike Mullins came back on the angle from close range to power over and Staunton's conversion narrowed the gap to 11 points on the hour mark. The Ospreys fans were made to sweat when Mullins and Staunton produced a piece of midfield magic for Staunton's second five-pointer, but Henson's huge punts kept his side out of trouble as the clock ran down.
Final Score: Munster 26 Neath/Swansea Ospreys 33
Ospreys Tries: Storey, Tiueti, A Williams. Cons: Henson 3. Pens: Henson 4
Munster Tries: Staunton 2, Wallace, Mullins. Cons: O'Sullivan, Staunton 2.
Jeremy Staunton, Mossie Lawlor, Mike Mullins, Jason Jones-Hughes, Shaun Payne, Conrad O'Sullivan, Eoin Reddan, Simon Kerr, Jerry Flannery, Martin Cahill, Eddie Halvey, David Pusey, Denis Leamy, David Wallace, Jim Williams.
Replacements: Frank Roche, Jodie Danaher, Trevor Hogan, Colm McMahon, Stephen Keogh, Mike Prendergast, Martin Mc Phail, Dominic Crotty.
15 Gavin Henson 14 Dave Tiueti 13 James Storey 12 Scott Gibbs (Captain) 11 Elvis Seveali'l 10 Shaun Connor 9 Andy Williams 8 Nathan Bonner Evans 7 James Bater 6 Gavin Thomas 5 Luke Tait 4 Andy Newman 3 Andrew Millward 2 Barry Williams 1 Paul James
Replacements: 16 Gareth Morris 17 Adrian Durston 18 Ricky Richards 19 Chris Wells 20 Steve Tandy 21 Lyndon Bateman 22 Cai Griffiths