O'Connell's pack put Munster in pole position

Scarlets 14 Munster 17

Parc y Scarlets

Just when you think Munster might be vulnerable, they put themselves in pole position to win their Heineken Cup pool and roll on to another great European adventure.

Two unbeaten teams went head to head in front of a record Heineken Cup crowd in Llanelli, but only one of them had the know-how to make it three wins from three. In doing so, Munster took charge of Pool One and a repeat at Thomond Park next week should send them through.

"It's a hell of a win for us and we are absolutely thrilled with it, but we are fully aware it's only half-time," said Paul O'Connell, Munster's captain (pictured). "There is nothing like a loss to focus the mind so I'd imagine next week will be an incredibly tough game."

Scarlets expectations were high after wins over Castres and Northampton, but the loss of the Wales wing George North before the game was a blow and the way the French referee, Romain Poite, interpreted the breakdown was a killer. There was no quick ball for the Scarlets back line to work with and it became a night of frustration for the home coaches and fans. Munster did what they do best and loved every minute of the battle.

Ronan O'Gara celebrated his 100th Heineken Cup appearance with a 12-point contribution but it was O'Connell's forwards who won the day. The captain said: "I thought our pack was excellent. We got a lot of yardage from our scrum and some points from our scrum.

"It's massively important we have got a home game next but it's not like we are running away with any games. Every game is a fight to the death. There is no danger of us getting ahead of ourselves."

Munster had needed last-gasp drop-goals from O'Gara to beat the Saints and Castres and there seemed to be chinks in their armour. Added to that, they arrived at Parc y Scarlets without five front-line players. But the worst thing you can do in the Heineken Cup is write off Munster. Even though they had to weather an opening storm which saw the Scarlets race into an 8-0 lead and miss another five points with the boot, they did not panic and they worked out how to frustrate their hosts. The Munster pack dominated possession and played havoc with the Scarlets' ball.

After a fifth-minute try from Aaron Shingler, the Welsh region did not really come close to getting another. The quick-thinking Shingler popped up in the Munster 22 after Jonathan Davies had hacked on, after an uncharacteristic mistake from the visitors. That score gave the home side real heart, although the conversion miss by Rhys Priestland went alongside an earlier penalty miss.

Those lost points could have made all the difference and Priestland was wide again in the second half, before he handed the kicking to Stephen Jones. O'Gara kicked two penalties in the first half, either side of a Niall Ronan try on the right touchline, and that was enough to give Munster an 11-8 interval lead.

With their scrum taking charge, and the back-row trio of Peter O'Mahony, Ronan and James Coughlin causing havoc at the breakdown, Munster had the upper hand. Priestland levelled the scores 10 minutes into the second half as the Scarlets rallied but they were making too many handling errors and conceding too many penalties. O'Gara kept hitting the spot and the lead returned to Munster. Jones set up a grandstand finish with a penalty, but Munster held their defensive line superbly.

The Scarlets ran out of steam and the visitors ran down the clock to make it three wins from three and go two points clear at the top of the pool. If it was an unlucky 13th straight defeat by Munster for the Scarlets, they dare not lose a 14th. If they do, their Heineken Cup adventure will be more or less over.

Scarlets: D Newton (S Jones, 58); L Williams (V Iongi, 76), S Williams, J Davies, S Lamont; R Priestland, G Davies (T Knoyle, 58); I Thomas (P John, 63), M Rees (capt; K Owens, 63), R Thomas (D Manu, 76), S Timani (K Murphy 63), D Welch, A Shingler (J Edwards, 46), B Morgan, R McCusker.

Munster: D Hurley; J Murphy, W Chambers (D Barnes, 56), L Mafi, S Zebo; R O'Gara, C Murray (T O'Leary, 63); W du Preez (M Horan, 76), D Varley, B Botha (J Hayes, 77), D Ryan (D O'Callaghan, 56), P O'Connell (capt), P O'Mahony (D Leamy, 41), J Coughlan, N Ronan.

Referee: R Poite (France).

Suggested Topics
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam