O'Gara's class exposes Llanelli

Munster 27 - Llanelli 16

Llanelli's season of woe is finally at an end after Munster completed a mercy killing at Lansdowne Road on Saturday night.

The traditional flag-bearers of Welsh rugby went to Dublin in a last-ditch attempt to finish a poor season with some silverware, but the 11-point Celtic Cup final defeat was simply more of the same for frustrated fans who had already watched their team give up the Celtic League title without a fight and fail to reach the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.

The Scarlets had enough ball, enough territory and enough opportunities to win Saturday night's match twice, but could not make a rusty Munster pay in a tense but error-filled game between two sides who just wanted the season to end.

"That result is probably where we are at the moment," said the Llanelli coach, Nigel Davies. "We had our chances, but we didn't take them. There is a fragility about this side."

The Scarlets went into the match without their in-form scrum-half Dwayne Peel, who injured his neck in the semi-final win over Neath-Swansea Ospreys. The stand-in, Mike Phillips, performed well in his final match before moving to the Cardiff Blues, but the Scarlets missed Peel's sniping, all-action game.

Instead, the Munster lock Paul O'Connell provided the line-out possession and the go-forward, and the fly-half Ronan O'Gara bagged 17 points - scoring every possible way - on his return from a lengthy knee injury.

Silverware aside, O'Gara was just happy to get through 80 minutes of rugby. "It's good to be back and having the last few weeks off has left me with a real hunger for the game," he said. "The thought of going away with the Lions really excites me."

Saturday night's match was the last in charge for the Munster coach, Alan Gaffney, before he returns to Australia to assist the national coach, Eddie Jones.

Munster: Tries A Horgan, R O'Gara, M Mullins; Conversions R O'Gara 3; Penalty R O'Gara; Drop goal R O'Gara. Llanelli Scarlets: Try M Phillips; Conversion C Thomas; Penalties C Thomas 3.

Munster: S Payne; P Devlin (D Leamy, 61), M Mullins, R Henderson, A Horgan; R O'Gara, P Stringer; M Horan (G McIlwham, 28), F Sheahan, J Hayes, D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell, A Quinlan, A Foley (capt), D Wallace.

Llanelli: B Davies; G Evans, M Watkins, T Selley, A Havili (S Finau, 54); C Thomas, M Phillips; P John, M Rees (A Gravelle, 68), J Davies, V Cooper, C Wyatt (A Jones, 62), S Easterby (capt), A Powell (G Quinnell, 54), G Thomas.

Referee: J Jutge (France).

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