Priestland's miss lets Munster off the hook
Munster 19 Scarlets 13
Monday 19 December 2011
They may not be the great entertainers or the most attractive side to watch but its hard not to sit back and admire Munster's ability to win Heineken Cup matches like this one against the Scarlets yesterday.
The home side kept their impressive winning record in this season's Heineken Cup and are on course for a quarter-finals place after they notched up their 14th successive victory over the Scarlets. This was a typically streetwise performance to grind out a 16th home win but they did not have it all their own way against a visiting side who got a bonus point in defeat to keep their own qualifications hopes alive The Welsh team will be kicking themselves after they carved out numerous opportunities and were far the more dangerous side but they made critical unforced errors which ultimately robbed them of a win.
Munster, who have been written off by the world and his wife this season, had a lineout which stuttered all afternoon but still had too much rugby intelligence and sheer stubbornness for a young Scarlets outfit.
The two-times champions, who lifted European rugby's biggest prize in 2006 and 2008, are one of two teams, along with four-times winners Toulouse, who have a won all four Pool games in this season's tournament so far. The Scarlets, who were without Wales' giant wing George North for a second week running due to injury, had lost the first game of the double header between the two sides by 17-14 at Parc Y Scarlets last weekend.
The Welsh region dominated territory and possession in the opening exchanges with centre Jonathan Davies a constant thorn in the home side's defence but it was 3-3 midway through the first half thanks to a penalty each by Ronan O'Gara and Stephen Jones.
But it was O'Gara's ever reliable boot which saw the Irish side, after Jones had missed with an earlier touchline penalty, go in 6-3 ahead, having been on the backfoot for most of the first half.
The game then turned on a easy missed penalty by Rhys Priestland, who moved to No 10 from full-back when Jones did not return after half-time due to heavy knock, and Munster went right up the other end and scored the game's first try. Connor Murray launched a counter attack before No 8 James Coughlan scored a trademark Munster try from a driving lineout to put the Irish province 16-3 ahead at the start of the second half.
The Scarlets refused to buckle and replacement hooker Ken Owens crashed over for a try to ensure a critical losing bonus point.
The Welsh side are still in the mix for a place in the last eight, but they will have left Thomond Park knowing they had thrown away a real chance to end their awful run of defeats to Munster.
Scorers: Munster: Try J Coughlan; Conversion R O'Gara; Penalties O'Gara 4. Scarlets: Try K Owens; Con R Priestland; Pens S Jones, R Priestland.
Munster: D Hurley; J Murphy, K Earls, L Mafi, S Zebo; R O'Gara, C Murray (T O'Leary, 63); W du Preez (M Horan 71), D Varley, B Botha, D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell (capt), D Leamy, N Ronan, J Coughlan (T O'Donnell, 76)
Scarlets: R Priestland; L Williams (G Maule, 63), S Williams, J Davies, S Lamont; S Jones (V Iongi, 41), G Davies (T Knoyle, 66); R Jones (P John, 66), M Rees (capt) (K Owens, 63), R Thomas, L Reed, D Welch (S Timani, 66), R McCusker, J Edwards (K Murphy, 71), B Morgan.
Referee: D Pearson (England)
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