Defending champion Munster Rugby sent an emphatic message to the remaining “obstacles” in their path to another title as they tore apart the Welsh Ospreys at Thomond Park Sunday.
That being said, for all of the class of Munster, this was no weak Osprey team, despite the absence of internationals Lee Byrne and Gavin Henson. But in my mind, no addition of 2008 Welsh Grand Slammers would have stopped the "Red Menace."
The mantra “Stand Up and Fight” was omnipresent in the proud stadium, but on a balmy Easter Sunday, the Munster men played with a hunger and determination that will be hard to stop for any other team left in the tournament.
In the first half, a typical arm-wrestle ensued as the contest started at a feverish pace. The speed of the respective defenses and overall rage at the tackle was a notch up from the previous two quarterfinals, both played a day earlier.
Strike that; the intensity was greater than that in any match previously held in this tourney. There is a passion about Munster that is almost compelling.
In the twelfth minute, Munster was narrowly denied a try via a barging David Wallace for the line, and for the first half-hour, the Ospreys' defense effectively harassed the Munster attack.
But the pack led by Wallace and Paul O’Connell, both automatic Lions selections, spearheaded an almost terrifying performance by the Irish provinces' forwards, and the Ospreys ultimately had no answer.
You could have thrown a blanket over the Munster tight five.
The red-clad backs had an equally terrific game, as Australian-born fullback Paul Warwick put on a master class for his position. His first try, a piece of stunning individual brilliance, ensured that Munster would control a tight first half.
The fullbacks' "exclamation mark" before halftime, a snap-drop goal from more than 40 meters out, guaranteed that the Red Army would take a deserved 10-point lead into the sheds.
The second half started with the same fervor that had been seen in the opening, and Hooks penalty narrowed the margin to just a converted try.
But it was here that Munster indeed "stood up and fought."
A crushing 27-point burst in less than 15 minutes saw Munster close out the match in wonderful fashion and showed their immense talent.
It did appear that the two-time champions would rack up a half-century of points against the hapless Welsh, but to the Ospreys' credit, they did stem the tide.
Still, at that point, Munster was already eyeing their next clash, which will be with either Leinster or Harlequins.
With Lions assistants Warren Gatland and Rob Howley watching this contest from the stands, I doubt it will be much of a question of how many Grand Slamming Irish make up the Lions team. It'll be more a lethal red tinge fdue to players from a team almost hurtling towards the second of back-to-back Heineken Cup crowns.
Munster has now booked their eighth European semifinal, and no doubt their opponent would do well to avoid watching the controlled slaughter they inflicted on Ospreys at Thomond.
Men of the Match
This officially went to Paul Warwick, who was sublime, but special mention goes to Lifeimi Mafi, who showed his verve and power in a dominant display.
Paul O’Connell must have confirmed his right to lead the Lions in the coming months, and the only questions over David Wallace will be wither the famous tourists play him at open side or No. 8.
Penalty Goal 13 Min (O'Gara)
Penalty Goal 15 Min (Hook)
Penalty Goal 30 Min (Hook)
TRY 33 Min (Warwick)
Penalty Goal 45 Min (Hook)
Penalty Goal 50 Min (O'Gara)
Conversion 55 Min (O'Gara)
TRY 62 Min (Earls)
Munster - Ospreys
Scrums: 9 - 3
Lines: 10(4) – 8(1)
Tries: 4 - 0
Conversions: 4/4 – 0/0
Penalties: 3/3 – 3/5
Drops: 2/2 – 0/0