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Having bowed out of the Heineken Cup at the quarter-final stage and missed out in the Celtic League, Munster came good on Saturday as they lifted the Celtic Cup in Alan Gaffney's final game in charge.

Celtic Cup Final: Saturday, May 14 Munster 27 Llanelli Scarlets 16, Lansdowne RoadScorers: Munster: Tries: Anthony Horgan, Ronan O'Gara, Mike Mullins; Cons: O'Gara 3; Pen: O'Gara; Drop: O'GaraScarlets: Try: Mike Phillips; Con: Ceiron Thomas; Pens: Thomas 3

The men-in-red chalked up their fifth win on the trot since bowing out of Europe to Biarritz last month as fit-again fly-half Ronan O'Gara proved instrumental in his first game back from injury.

O'Gara showed no signs of the right knee ligament injury he sustained against the Dragons as he notched 17 points, including a 'full house' of first half points.

The Scarlets' preparations had been dogged by a row between their coach Gareth Jenkins and Ospreys manager Derwyn Jones. Jenkins had been accused of entering Irish referee Donal Courtney's changing room during last weekend's semi-final win.

Jenkins' off-the-field woes were added to in the first 20 minutes at Lansdowne Road on Saturday, as Munster crossed for two tries.

Following early showpiece runs from both Shaun Payne and Mike Mullins, O'Gara was provider for Gaffney's side's first hit on 5 minutes.

His long cut-out pass found Anthony Horgan on the left flank and Garan Evans and Barry Davies were both bypassed as Munster's powerful left winger jetted through from 25 metres to score.

O'Gara's well-flighted conversion was cancelled out by a left wing penalty from Scarlets Academy youngster Ceiron Thomas, only in his third game, before the Ireland and Lions fly-half bagged Munster's second try on 19 minutes.

The Welsh side's defence was scattered as Rob Henderson, skipper Anthony Foley and David Wallace drove up to the line, then O'Gara provided the finishing touch as he rounded prop Phil John to touch down.

Wind-backed Munster did not have the first half completely their own way. The Scarlets' first concerted attacking phase on the half-hour allowed their lively backs to shift the ball from right to left.

Tongan Aisea Havili was held up just short before scrum-half Mike Phillips evaded Peter Stringer in a close range lunge to touch down in the left corner.

Thomas converted brilliantly but two subsequent O'Gara kicks - a penalty and drop goal - pulled the province 20-10 clear at the break.

For Munster, the second half was about containing the best the 2004 Celtic League winners could throw at them. Some sterling defence allowed Jenkins' lot little in the way of attacking chinks of light.

A further brace of Thomas penalties, with the second on 59 minutes leaving the result in the balance at 20-16 in Munster's favour.

Yet again in the Cup, Munster's experience came to a fore as they netted a try in the final 10 minutes for the third game running.

O'Gara again forced the try-scoring pass. Veteran centre Mullins breached a lacklustre double tackle from substitute Salesi Finau and Matthew J Watkins 15 metres out, to post up Munster's third converted try and settle the issue with just six minutes remaining.

The result - Munster's seventh straight Celtic victory since March - marked a fitting end to Gaffney's three-year term.

MUNSTER:

(15) Shaun Payne(14) Paul Devlin(13) Mike Mullins(12) Rob Henderson(11) Anthony Horgan(10) Ronan O'Gara(9) Peter Stringer(1) Marcus Horan(2) Frank Sheahan(3) John Hayes(4) Donncha O'Callaghan(5) Paul O'Connell(6) Alan Quinlan(7) David Wallace(8) Anthony Foley (Capt)

Replacements used: Gordon McIlwham for Horan (23 mins), Denis Leamy for Devlin (62). Not used: Jerry Flannery, Trevor Hogan, Mike Prendergast, Paul Burke, James Storey.

Scarlets: Barry Davies; Garan Evans, Matthew J Watkins, Tal Selley, Aisea Havili; Ceiron Thomas, Mike Phillips; Phil John, Matthew Rees, John Davies, Vernon Cooper, Chris Wyatt, Simon Easterby (Capt), Gavin Thomas, Andy Powell.

Replacements used: Salesi Finau for Havili, Gavin Quinnell for Powell (both 55 mins), Adam Jones for Wyatt (63), Aled Gravelle for Rees (69). Not used: David Maddocks, Chris McDonald, Gareth Bowen.

HT: Munster 20 Scarlets 10Referee: Joel Jutge (France)

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20 June 2018
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