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Munster Reign In Stradey

Munster Reign In Stradey

Ronan O’Gara supplied 19 points as Munster kept their Heineken Cup challenge on course with victory over Scarlets and the elements at Stradey Park.

Having now lost all three of their Pool Five games, the Scarlets are all but out of European contention this season – but Munster are still very much in the mix with Wasps and Clermont Auvergne.

Munster had to come back from 10-6 down in the first half, but after that man-of-the-match O’Gara controlled the contest, and when conditions deteriorated dramatically in the second half, amid driving rain, the Irish pack took complete control.

It was sweet revenge for Munster who had lost at Stradey Park in last season’s quarter-final.

Munster enjoyed a 22-10 half-time lead, mainly through O’Gara’s trusty right boot and indiscipline by the home side in their own territory.

O’Gara, who also controlled the game with his kicking out of hand, planted two penalties after seven and 15 minutes.

But despite being without Stephen Jones and skipper Simon Easterby, who twice had treatment in the blood bin, the Scarlets took the lead with a Rhys Priestland penalty and a try for Regan King.

The penalty came about after Lifeimi Mafi was sin-binned by referee Wayne Barnes after Dwayne Peel had looked like going over for a try but was prevented from releasing.

The Welsh region took advantage of their extra man as Mark Jones ran back a loose box kick from Peter Stringer.

He scythed into Munster’s half as Gavin Evans sent King in at the right corner. Priestland converted impressively from the touchline as the home side enjoyed a brief four-point lead.

But it was all Munster for the rest of the half, aided by Mark Jones’ sin-binning for killing the ball at a ruck. O’Gara put over his third and fourth penalties after 31 and 35 minutes before the Scarlets were stunned by an opportunist try.

Priestland put the ball out by his line, Stringer took a quick throw-in and David Wallace went in for the simplest of tries under the posts. After the simple conversion O’Gara put over a fifth penalty in injury-time to take his tally to 15 points for the half.

With heavy, driving rain at their backs, the Scarlets ate into the 12-point interval deficit when Priestland put over a 50th-minute penalty after O’Gara had been guilty of killing the ball.

The weather was so bad at one stage in the 53rd minute that the referee must have been thinking about abandoning the contest.

The gap was closed further eight minutes later when Munster indiscipline allowed Priestland to convert his third penalty, reducing the Irishmen’s lead to 22-16. But he missed a fourth attempt two minutes later after Munster were offside.

Any hopes of a concerted Scarlets comeback were dashed when prop Deacon Manu was yellow-carded for foul play in the 69th minute.

Four minutes later Munster went in for their second converted try, scored by Marcus Horan and awarded after referral to the television match official.

The province’s pack, with Denis Leamy and David Wallace to the fore, put the match to bed in the final quarter as they went through phase after phase.