Magners League: Munster open up impressive lead at the top

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The Independent Online

Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin expressed his "pride" in his team after they were beaten 35-10 by Munster at Thomand Park on Saturday, with the hosts stretching their lead at the top of the table to nine points with this bonus-point victory.

"We defended our line with pride but in the end they were just too strong for us," McLaughlin said after tries from Thomas Anderson, Denis Tomey, O'Donnell, Barry Murphy and Lifeimi Mafi enables Munster to overcome their spirited rivals.

Leinster sealed their second successive inter-provincial Magners League victory when they beat Connacht 30-8. Josef Schmidt's team had won away at Ulster in late December and two tries from David Kearney at The Greenyards helped Leinster win again.

The hosts earned a 8-3 lead into half-time after Keaney had scored his first try, and he touched down again after the interval along with team-mate Fergus McFadden before Niall Morris scored to ensure a bonus point. Wing Eoin Griffin registered a try for Connacht, adding to Ian Keatley's early penalty, but it was too little, too late.

Scarlets returned to winning ways with a closely-contested 21-15 win over the Newport Gwent Dragons at the Parc y Scarlets stadium. Having been comprehensively beaten 60-17 by Ospreys on 27 December, Scarlets bounced back as Rhys Priestland's 16 points helped the hosts climb to second with the win.

The game began in ill-temped fashion when the Dragons' Aled Brew was sin-binned for kicking out at Gareth Maule. However, despite being temporarily depleted, the visitors went ahead as Wayne Evans touched down in the first half after latching on to a neat cross-kick by Jason Tovey.

The Scarlets replied after the break, Maule crossing the line before the Dragons' poor discipline afflicted the game again, as Gavin Thomas was sent to the sin-bin for persistent infringements at the breakdown, with Priestland kicking the ensuing penalty to put the Scarlets ahead. Jonathon Davies received a yellow card but Scarlets scored another try and also posted a penalty, both from Priestland, to clinch the victory.