Munster underlined just why they are so heavily fancied to claim a second successive Heineken Cup by routing Ospreys 43-9 at a sun-drenched Thomond Park on Sunday afternoon.

The Irish province were in simply scintillating form, running in four tries in total, with Keith Earls helping himself to a brace and Paul Warwick and Paul O’Connell scoring one apiece.

Ronan O’Gara did not miss a kick on goal all afternoon, ending with 17 points to his name, while man of the match Warwick also contributed six points with the boot, the

The Ospreys had proven competitive in the opening half hour but ultimately had no answer to Munster’s all-round magnificence and managed just three penalties from James Hook by way of a response to the home side’s onslaught.

James Hook might have kicked The Ospreys ahead on six minutes after Lifeimi Mafi was penalized at the ruck, but he sent his seemingly straight-forward kick to the left and wide.

Munster had a try that might have been allowed in the days before TMOs ruled out on 12 minutes when David Wallace, helped by Paul O'Connell, charged over the line, but replays proved inconclusive over whether or not the ball had been grounded.

It mattered little though, as the resulting five-meter scrum went The Reds' way and it was left to O'Gara to convert the opening score of the game.

The visitors were level within two minutes, though, Munster caught offside at the ruck and Hook nailed his kick on this occasion, from just meters inside the halfway line.

O'Gara kicked the hosts back in front with another penalty on 19 minutes before Hook notched up his second wide of the afternoon by sending another kick wide of the posts moments later.

Tony McGahan's side slowly worked their way on top, however, and when Pal Warwick sent a fantastic kick forward - only to be knocked off the ball by Filo Tiatia - the advantage was made a numerical one, with the number eight sent to the touchline for ten.

Ospreys leveled matters when Donncha O'Callaghan was penalized for a collision with Mike Phillips, but the decisive moment came just six minutes later when good work from O'Leary and O'Connell saw Warwick turn back inside Alun Wyn-Jones and dive over.

O'Gara converted the extras, before the Australian nicked another crucial three points with a superb drop kick to leave the scores 16-6 at half-time.

Hook claimed the first score after the interval - reducing the deficit to seven - but after O'Gara slotted another penalty between the posts on 50 minutes, it was all one-way traffic.

Munster's second try came courtesy of some excellent team play with good work from Mafi, Howlett and O'Leary seeing O'Connell over in the corner. And, giving their opponents no time to regroup, Warwick nailed a second drop kick almost as soon as the action resumed.

There was still plenty of time for the home team to turn the screw, Earls first try arriving just after the hour mark - though Mafi's pass to the centre is what made the score sparkle. It was O'Gara and replacement Mick O'Driscoll who put the move in motion before their centre managed to hook a pass backwards to Earls while being hauled to the ground.

Incredibly, the number 13's contribution was not done and moments later when Ian Dowling managed to paw the restart back to his colleague, Earls sprinted the length of the pitch to just about reach the tryline despite what seemingly a successful, last gasp tackle from Phillips.

Replays showed, however, that despite the number nine's best efforts, his opponent was not in touch until after the ball was grounded.

At this stage the players were openly celebrating scores on the pitch and the raft of changes that McGahan could implement a sign that the contest was long over with 15 minutes remaining.

Munster: P Warwick; D Howlett, K Earls, L Mafi, I Dowling; R O'Gara, T O'Leary; M Horan, J Flannery, J Hayes; D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell; A Quinlan, D Wallace, D Leamy.

Replacements: D Fogarty, T Buckley, M O'Driscoll, N Ronan, P Stringer, B Murphy, D Hurley.

Ospreys: T Bowe; J Vaughton, S Parker, A Bishop, S Williams; J Hook, M Phillips; P James, H Bennett, A Jones; I Gough, A-W Jones; R Jones, M Holah, F Tiatia.

Replacements: R Hibbard, C Griffiths, F Levi, A Lloyd, T Smith, J Nutbrown, D Biggar.