Munster book home semi-final
April 16, 2011
Fullback Paul Warwick steered Munster to victory at Parc y Scarlets
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Munster booked a home semi-final in this season's Magners League play-offs with a 13-6 victory over an off-colour Scarlets in Llanelli.
Despite resting a host of top players, the Irish province secured a hard-fought win thanks to a 67th-minute try from wing Simon Zebo. The victory ensures Munster will sit top of the Magners League at the end of the regular season, while the defeat ends the Scarlets' already slender hopes of making the top four.
Munster had gone into the match needing just a point to secure a semi back at Thomond Park, while the Scarlets were desperate for a win to re-ignite their chances of featuring in the end-of-season shoot-out. Both sides had their chances in a frenetic opening. Wales wing George North knocked on with the line beckoning while lively opposite number Zebo was hauled down just short after a fine break from inside his own half.
A penalty by fly-half Rhys Priestland did give the home side the lead on 18 minutes, but the Scarlets were struggling to get their fluid game going against some aggressive Munster defence. And after winning a penalty at a Scarlets scrum, Munster were level through the boot of fullback Paul Warwick just before half-time.
The Australian then added a second following a further home infringement to give his side a 6-3 interval advantage. Priestland missed with a chance to level matters three minutes after the restart, but in a repeat of the opening minutes of the first half the Scarlets pressed hard. And when the Scarlets pack shoved Munster's eight back at a scrum, Priestland had another shot at the posts and this time was on target to level things up again.
The Scarlets were denied a try when Scotland wing Sean Lamont was held up on the line by a fine tackle from No. 8 Denis Leamy as Munster continued to frustrate the home side. And the Irish province almost claimed a try of their own, only for wing Danny Barnes to be shoved out in the corner. They were not to be denied, though. The Scarlets looked to run out of defence, but when the move broke down once again Zebo pounced, hacking through and easily winning the race to the touchdown.
Priestland had a chance to cut the deficit but was off target again and despite some desperate late efforts from the Scarlets, Munster, as they so often do, were able to hold on for the points.
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