The last time the two sides met was a wonderful spring afternoon in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium where Scarlets were crowned Guinness PRO12 champions.
This afternoon is an all-together different task but not without similar significance. With Edinburgh only a point behind the Scarlets in Conference B after securing a victory over Connacht last night the Scarlets need to secure a win not only to keep the heat on leaders Leinster but also to keep distane between them and Edinburgh, currently in third.
With this afternoon’s clash one of only four games remaining in the Guinness PRO14’s regular season it’s a crucial time for the West Wales region to be continuing with their winning form.
Tom Varndell with the first touch of the ball for Scarlets after Munster kick off towards at Thomond Park.
It’s the Scarlets who have the upper hand in the opening minutes playing with plenty of width, quick ball and showing plenty of intent.
A line out outside Munster’s 22 allows Scarlets to build an attacking phase. Aaron Shingler shows his steely composure behind the halfway line and gets the Scarlets back on the attacking foot. The ball is confidently passed thorugh the hands before James Davies makes a break in to Munster’s 22. Davies has scrum half Aled Davies in support and he crosses for the first try of the evening. Rhys Patchell converts.
With 20 minutes on the clock Munster run in a try under the posts from their own 22 after an interception but Marius Mitrea heads to TMO to check for a knock on. It is indeed deemed a knock on and we head all the way back to their 22.
Munster come back on the attack and head into Scarlets’ half but Tadhg Beirne continues to do what he does best and keeps the pressure on. He wins a turnover for the Scarlets and it’s a scrum on our 10m line.
In contrast to the opening ten minutes the second ten minutes see Munster hit back and win territory in Scarlets’ half. They have two kicks to the corner and go for the try. They cross the line but the ball is held up. We come back for a scrum and despite a mammoth defensive effort from the Scarlets the try is awarded this time, claimed by scrum half James Hart. Outside half Ian Keately fails to convert.
As we head in to the final ten minutes Rhys Patchell has a kick at goal from the 10m line after Munster are penalised at the breakdown. The ball hits the upright, bounces back in to the field of play and is available. Munster gather and clear but Scarlets come back on the attack. After a second attempt Munster kick to touch. It’s a Scarlets line out on halfway line. Munster make a break along the touchline but Patchell is there to bring the attacking run to a halt. Scarlets scrum just shy of our 22.
We head back downfield through a Patchell kick and Munster kick to touch to bring the first half to a close.
Half time: Munster 5 Scarlets 7
Scarlets start the second half in the same vein as the first with attacking flair as they head into Munster’s territory. A line out error by Munster gives Scarlets the advantage and a scrum five hands a golden opportunity. Scarlets give possession away however as Munster take an interception ball. They kick downfield, Varndell gathers and kicks to touch. Munster half a solid footing. They win advantage, kick for the corner and start and attacking phase. Scarlets’ defensive effort is once again massive but it’s not enough to stop the Munstermen securing a second try, claimed this time by Robin Copeland. Keately adds the conversion and Munster go ahead.
With 53 minutes on the clock, and Munster seemingly with the upper hand, the Scarlets bring on a fresh front row in Phil Price, Emyr Phillips and Werner Kruger as well as Josh Macleod for Aaron Shingler.
Scarlets win a scrum inside their own half after Muster’s throw in to the line out is crooked. Jonathan Evans replaces Aled Davies before the scrum. Munster are soon back in possession but kick the ball back to Scarlets.
With twenty minutes left on the clock Scarlets make more changes to freshen things up. Munster have the upper hand with decisions going their way. Scrum half Hart makes a break. Heads into Scarlets’ 22 and looks like he’s going to cross for Munster’s third try. He’s tackled. Munster come back on the attack but Scarlets defend strongly. Munster continue to recycle the ball and it’s not long before replacement prop James Cronin crosses the whitewash. Keately lines up the conversion but Mitrea blows the whistle. TMO wants to have a look at the try. The decision is reversed. Try not given due to a double movement. The crowd is incensed.
The scoreboard is returned to 12-7 and Scarlets have a lot of work to do in the closing ten minutes if they’re to secure a victory.
It’s a frantic final five minutes. Munster pick up speed and secure a third try and add the conversion putting a victory out of reach for Scarlets.
Final score: Munster 19 Scarlets 7