Scarlets 14-17 Munster, Heineken Cup
Munster see off Scarlets
December 10, 2011
Lifeimi Mafi looks to offload after coming under intense pressure during the game in Llanelli
© Getty Images
Munster climbed above Scarlets and into top spot in Pool 1 of this season's Heineken Cup with a hard-earned 17-14 victory over the Welsh region in Llanelli on Saturday.
Ronan O'Gara celebrated his 100th tournament appearance with 12 points, while Niall Ronan accounted for the visitors' sole try in what was their 13th straight win over their Celtic rivals in all competitions.
The Scarlets, who racked up a try for flanker Aaron Shingler, two penalties for Rhys Priestland and one for Stephen Jones, led twice - but they could not match Munster's more streetwise approach.
It did not help the Scarlets that they suffered a pre-match setback with wing George North ruled out with a dead leg. The 19-year-old was injured in Wales' defeat to Australia last weekend and the region had hoped he would recover. However, North failed a late fitness test and that meant Liam Williams moved to the wing from fullback, with Dan Newton filling the No.15 jersey.
The Scarlets, spurred on with their first two wins against Castres and Northampton and a record Heineken Cup crowd of 13,183, had much of the better of the opening quarter which was reflected in an 8-0 lead.
Priestland was wayward with an early penalty shot but a vocal home crowd were soon cheering a Scarlets try on six minutes. A Will Chambers attempted pass went astray with Jonathan Davies hacking on with Shingler following up and going over.
Priestland's conversion struck the post but three minutes later he was on target with a penalty after Munster had erred offside. However, after that Munster gradually came more and more into the game after going close with a try on 15 minutes.
Munster's comeback was started when Priestland was forced to take a ball over his own line. From the resulting scrum Scarlets collapsed and O'Gara broke the Irish province's duck with a 27th-minute penalty.
That spurred Munster into action and their opening try came after Newton failed to find touch from his 22. Munster ran it back down the right touchline with Ronan stepping inside scrum-half Gareth Davies to go over.
Munster's comeback was complete in the final minute of the half when O'Gara's second penalty gave them an 11-8 half-time lead.
Priestland got it back to 11-all ten minutes into the second half and they had the chance of what looked like a certain try but Jonathan Davies failed to find Scott Williams, who was free outside him. And Munster made the Scarlets pay with two more penalties on 56 and 62 minutes.
However, in a match that was always going to be decided by small margins, the Scarlets got back to within three points with a penalty from Stephen Jones, who had taken over the kicking duties after missed two penalties and one missed conversion attempt from Priestland. But it was not enough, as the Scarlets made key handling mistakes in the dying minutes.
© ESPN EMEA Ltd
"If there was a cross breed of canine called an Underdogdoodle it would win best in show at Crufts." Mark Durden-Smith looks at the Aviva Premiership Final
With the Lions' tour to Australia fast-approaching, ESPN's Austin Healey and Mark Durden-Smith sat down to share their memories of the 2001 trip Down Under
Ask John answers questions on the Leopards' tour to Italy in 1974, brotherly Test sides, Pat McGrath, England's games against the Barbarians and Jacques Brunel
"We were only five metres away in the last Test of getting that try and with Jonny's inevitable conversion, we'd have won it." Tom Hamilton talks to Lions fullback Matt Perry