Prendergast rescues muddled Munster

Munster 13 Llanelli 6
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The Independent Online

The Celtic League is a concept devised by the Welsh, supported by the Scots, but in its inaugural season well and truly hijacked by the cunning and well-organised Irish.

The remainder of this year's competition, starting with next week's semi-finals, will now be no more than an extra trial for the new Irish coaching team of Eddie O'Sullivan and Declan Kidney. Three of the four places are occupied by the Irish provinces, with Munster due to take on Ulster at home.

Nine Welsh teams and Edinburgh have been unceremoniously dumped at the expense of the Irish, and Llanelli were the latest to experience the same fate.

Munster were way off their best in greasy conditions, although credit to the Scarlets whose forwards were magnificent in this rugby cauldron.

The fainthearted should keep well clear of Thomond Park in Limerick on a Saturday when Munster are playing at home. They are unbeaten there in all European matches, and already this season have despatched the might of Cardiff and Bridgend in various competitions by north of 50 and 40 points respectively.

The tall order faced by Llanelli, exacerbated by the absence through injury of their skipper and No 8 Scott Quinnell, was however met head-on with a gutsy display by the visitors. They held their own for an hour before capitulating to a powerful if not on-form home side.

Quinnell's loss was significant but not as influential as scrum-half Peter Stringer's absence for Munster. Replacement scrum-half Mike Prendergast was plucky and scored the try, but his general play and lack of experience hindered the home effort.

From the start, with Munster's handling suspect, Llanelli seemed hurried and under pressure. However, after 10 minutes Peter Clohessy and John Davies were caught squabbling in the front row. The former was deemed the more guilty and Stephen Jones slotted an easy penalty.

Munster's territorial and early forward pressure told 20 minutes in when prop Davies was sent to the sin bin. O'Gara, already accurate with raking touch-finders, kicked the ensuing penalty to level matters.

Despite being a man short, Llanelli raised the tempo. Fly-half Gareth Bowen more than matched O'Gara and Guy Easterby posed questions with his all-action style.

The Irishmen took the lead in the second half with O'Gara's second penalty. And on the hour a defensive Llanelli scrum was under severe pressure when a loose ball was seized on by young Prendergast who dived over wide out. O'Gara converted.

Jones succeeded with his second penalty to keep the contest alive, but the game petered out apart from the now customary host of replacements, to end with Irish domination of the final stages of the Celtic League.

Munster: J Staunton; R Henderson, J Kelly, J Holland (Mullins 70), A Horgan; R O'Gara; M Prendergast; P Clohessy, F Sheahan, J Hayes, M Galwey (capt), M O'Driscoll (P O'Connell 55), J Williams, A Quinlan, A Foley.

Llanelli: B Davies (S Finau 57); W Proctor, M Cardey, S Jones (capt), G Evans (N Boobyer 72); G Bowen, G Easterby; M Madden, M Thomas (R McBryde 64), J Davies, V Cooper, C Gillies (S Morgan 64), C Wyatt, S Easterby, I Boobyer (D Jones 75).

Referee: R Dickson (SRU).