Munster are back on top of 5 after their 22-13 victory over the Scarlets. Brian Carney’s 73rd-minute try was the decisive score for the home side who struggled to batter down a stubborn Scarlets defence.
Munster reclaimed top spot in Heineken Cup Pool Five with a scrappy but deserved 22-13 win over Llanelli Scarlets at Thomond Park.
Brian Carney’s 73rd-minute try was the decisive score for the home side who struggled to batter down a stubborn Scarlets defence.
Pointless and rooted to the bottom of the table, the Scarlets wrestled an early lead from the hosts thanks to a 12th-minute touchdown from fit-again fly-half Stephen Jones.
Three Ronan O’Gara penalty goals sent Munster in at the break with a 14-7 advantage, but Jones kicked his second penalty, just after the hour mark, and Munster endured a nervy few minutes before Carney put the seal on their third successive pool win.
Munster made a lively start with man-of-the-match Rua Tipoki producing a good early steal on Jonathan Davies and they chalked down their first try six minutes into the fray.
O’Gara swung a skip pass out to the left for hooker Jerry Flannery to shrug off the tackles of Nathan Brew and Morgan Stoddart and squirm over in the corner.
Television match official Geoff Warren confirmed the grounding and while the wind forced O’Gara to drop kick the conversion to the right and wide, the Scarlets soon breezed up the other end for a crowd-silencing seven-pointer.
The visitors’ try came from an error of judgment from Mick O’Driscoll. When Jones knocked a penalty off the post, the Munster lock retrieved the ball but passed it behind him to nobody in particular and Lifeimi Mafi had to rescue the situation by touching down behind his posts.
The Scarlets were solid at the resulting scrum and although there were question marks over whether James Bater had blocked O’Gara off the ball, Jones managed to race in behind the posts on an arcing 20-metre burst.
Jones’ successful conversion was cancelled out four minutes later when O’Gara landed his first penalty and two more place kicks from their stand-in captain after 24 and 34 minutes nudged the province 14-7 clear.
O’Gara’s third success came after a sin-binning for Scarlets prop Ben Broster who put in a reckless boot on Peter Stringer as he attempted to clear from a ruck.
Down to 14 men, the visitors managed to keep Munster out for the remainder of the half with flanker Denis Leamy going closest to the Scarlets’ whitewash – he was held up over the line in injury-time.
The Scarlets had the wind advantage for the second half but Munster came storming out on the restart, building phase after phase. Nonetheless, the home side’s forward grunt counted for little as Jones soon cut the gap to 14-10.
Dusting himself down after receiving a high tackle from Alix Popham, O’Gara restored Munster’s seven-point buffer but they just could not put the Scarlets to the sword.
Although danger man Regan King was kept out of the game, Scarlets full-back Morgan Stoddart was running some excellent lines of attack and one such break led to Jones nailing his second penalty of the afternoon.
Munster looked almost on the verge of imploding when replacement prop Marcus Horan was sin-binned for striking Deacon Manu off the ball.
However, with John Hayes coming up with a crucial steal on Vernon Cooper and Munster finally finding some space out wide, Tipoki, Mafi and Payne combined to put Carney over for the clinching score in the right corner.
Popham saw yellow for a late tackle on David Wallace in the build-up to the try and although O’Gara’s conversion attempt was off target, Munster had enough in the tank to see out a vital win.