Toby Booth

Ospreys head coach Toby Booth has led his team into the URC play-offs. Pic: Getty Images.

Ospreys’ Knockout Mission Is Toughest Possible, Admits Toby Booth

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By Simon Thomas

Toby Booth says his Ospreys will be taking on the best team in the URC when they face Munster at Limerick’s Thomond Park in Friday’s opening quarter-final.

Booth’s side defied the odds to secure the final spot in the play-offs with a 33-29 bonus point victory over Cardiff on Judgement Day, after a succession of other results had gone their way over the weekend.

They are the first Welsh team to reach the knock-out stages since 2018, an achievement secured by winning 10 of their 18 league matches – double their tally from last season.

Awaiting them in the last eight will be Munster, with head coach Booth well aware of the challenge that lies ahead.

“They are the best team in the competition,” he said.

“I know Leinster would dispute that, but they have finished top, they have won what they have won and they are the defending champions. So, factually, it’s right.

“There’s a reason 1 plays 8, but we are really looking forward to it. You would rather be in it than not.

“We know it’s really difficult, but when it gets to knock-out rugby, it’s about who delivers on the day.

“You’ve got to deal with the occasion first and foremost and then you have to be right on it. As the stakes get higher, the need to execute becomes less forgiving.

“There are no second chances now and that makes it tough.”

Reflecting on making the play-offs, Booth said: “We have become a top eight team for the first time since I’ve been here and that’s a credit to everyone who’s been involved.

“It’s a reward for how competitive we have been. We wanted to earn respect and hopefully we have done that. There is a sense of pride and achievement.

“It’s progress first and foremost – double figure wins. It’s a rough journey and there are plenty of reasons why not, but we have found enough throughout the season.

“We set out on a mission to play a brand of rugby that people will enjoy, we said we would reflect the work ethic of the people we represent and we said we would grow our own players. I think we have done that.

“Sport is hard, sport is cruel, you don’t always get what you deserve. But if you work hard enough for long enough, you will keep loading the dice in your favour and give yourself a chance and I think we have done that well this year.

“We’ve moved the dial a little bit. Progress in sport is very difficult, so we’ve just got to keep swinging for the fence.”

The Cardiff City Stadium clash which booked the Ospreys’ path to the play-offs was an enthralling and thoroughly entertaining contest, with the pendulum swinging back and fore.

There were nine tries in all, plus one red card and three yellows.

The Ospreys’ Leicester-bound prop Nicky Smith and Wales threequarter Mason Grady both crossed twice, while there were a couple of superb team tries, plus a tremendous finish from Cardiff wing Theo Cabango, who unfortunately picked up a hamstring injury minutes later.

Knowing they had to claim maximum points, the Ospreys secured their all-important fourth try on 63 minutes when Luke Morgan went over out wide.

But Cardiff refused to lie down, with Grady’s second try in the final play earning them two points – taking their tally of bonus points from defeats this season to a remarkable 11.

Their coach Matt Sherratt commented: “I thought it was a great advert for Welsh rugby. It did Judgement Day proud.

“There’s obviously been a fair bit of negativity around the game in Wales, but there were some good players out on the pitch there. You had two teams where you could tell the players are really proud to play for the shirt.”

He added: “I am pleased there is a Welsh team in the play-offs. I think it’s good for the game in Wales.

“Not many teams will want to play the Ospreys. They have got a good all-round game. I genuinely think they can beat Munster away.”

In the opening Judgement Day fixture, the Scarlets beat Dragons RFC 32-15 with wing Tomi Lewis crossing twice before damaging his Achilles. It was their fifth league win of the season and it saw them move above the Sharks to finish 13th in the table.

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