Simon Easterby’s men visited Musgrave Park looking to stay in touch with league-leading Ulster.
SECOND PLACE SCARLETS played Munster [fifth] in Cork and home coach Rob Penney was hoping for his team’s third win in succession.
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Munster 6-13 Scarlets
Good late afternoon one and all. The Pro12 action is taking place in Cork today as Munster welcome a George-North-less Scarlets.
To paraphrase our Pro12 previews, Munster will be hoping to seal a bonus point win that could take them into third and leave them just a point behind the Welshmen.
Munster’s four-try win over Edinburgh in the Heineken Cup sparked their season after a mini slump and they followed it up with a fine away win in Cardiff. Scarlets have won six games from eight so far with their sole loss on the road coming against Treviso, 22-20, in Italy.
Here’s some teams news to get us started.
Munster: F Jones; D Howlett (c), C Laulala, J Downey, L O’Dea; I Keatley, D Williams; W du Preez, M Sherry, S Archer; I Nagle, B Holland; Dave O’Callaghan, N Ronan, P Butler.
Replacements: D Varley, M Horan, BJ Botha, D Foley, CJ Stander, P Stringer, JJ Hanrahan, D Hurley.
Munster have made six changes from the side that beat Cardiff Blues at the start of the month. Ian Keatley resumes the kicking duties from out-half while James Downey partners Casey Laulala in the centre. Felix Jones continues his comeback at 15 while the front row comprises of Wian du Preez, Mike Sherry and Stephen Archer.
It is a shame that JJ Hanrahan is not in the starting line-up but he has been double-jobbing with UL Bohemians of late.
Scarlets: M Stoddart, N Reynolds, G Maule, G Owen, A Fenby; A Thomas, G Davies; P John, E Phillips, J Adriaanse; J Ball, R Kelly; G Earle, J Edwards (c), C Price.
Replacements: K Myhill, S Hopkins, S Lee, J Snyman, D Thomas, R Williams, D Newton, A Warren.
Scarlets coach Simon Easterby lost Liam Williams to international duty late in the piece and called up Morgan Stoddart to start at fullback. Aled Thomas kicked well in Sacrlets’ LV Cup game last weekend and retains the 10 jersey.
To get you in the mood for some beautiful rugby, check out this familiar Warren Gatland lineout tactic that outfoxed the All Blacks yesterday:
It’s blustery and a there’s a nip in the Cork air but the rain is holding off so we are hopeful for a better game than was visited upon the earth in Glasgow on Friday night.
Scarlets, apart from a serious blip in Italy against Treviso, have looked very impressive thus far in the Pro12. They are severely under-strength though and Munster will be aiming to put one over on them.
A lot of kidlings out and chewing sweets in Musgrave. Nearly every head has a red woolly Munster hat and they applaud the two sides on.
Referee Laurent Cardona gives a whistle and we are off!
Davies is penalised for not releasing the ball but it is too far out to aim for the posts so Keatley kicks for touch. The lineout is lost but Munster retain possession and break down the right. Jones chips and chases but scrum-half Davies is there to clean up and touch down beyond his line for a 5m scrum.
Scarlets hold firm at the scrum but Munster attack again until Sherry is dragged out of play in possession. Good start from the home side though. Luke O’Dea is almost through out left but there are enough defenders back.
Jones sets up Sherry but he is held up out in the right-hand corner. Ian Nagle has a dart before Holland squirts away possession. No reward there but Duncan Williams pins the Welshmen back with a lovely kick into the corner.
Laulala messes up a couple of attacking moves but Munster continue to press. Jones tries another grubber and it hits a Welsh leg on the way out. Sherry’s lineout is spilled forward. More wastefulness.
First scoring chance off the tee and it goes to Scarlets. Munster were punished for going off their feet at the breakdown but Aled Thomas’ kick from 40 metres out fell foul of a gusting wind and flew to the left of the posts. 20 minutes gone.
Neil Ronan and Stephen Archer make some inroads into the Welsh defence and the pressure tells as a penalty is conceded. Ian Keatley steps up and strokes it over. Munster 3-0 Scarlets
The Scarlets pack are the dominant one at present and they win another penalty. John, Phillips and Adriaanse doing sterling work for their team. The Welshmen pile forward after winning an attacking line-out and Munster are penalised for slowing play down. 15 metres out and no mistake as Thomas makes it Munster 3-3 Scarlets after 29 minutes.
The Scarlets scrum continuing to get them out of trouble. BJ Botha may have to appear after the break. Rob Penney must think there is a chink in the Scarlets defence as he is trying to catch them out with lots of kicks to the corner and grubbers.
Niall Ronan is flattened by Ball, who leads with his head in clearing out a ruck. Completely out of line.
Niall Ronan is being stretchered off after that challenge that, on looking at the replays, was quite nasty. It means a Munster debut for South African CJ Stander but it comes in terrible circumstances. It was an American Football-style head charge but with scrum-caps rather than safety helmets. Idiotic stuff from Scarlets lock Jake Ball.
Eight medical and St John’s attendants see to the Munster forward and he is going straight into a waiting ambulance.
Munster have been spurred on by that loss of their teammate and a clever Luke O’Dea chip and chase puts Scarlets in big trouble. The rain is billowing down now as Munster’s forwards drive for the line and we have a TMO
CJ Stander almost had a debut try but it was not over the line and he was held up. That’s HALF-TIME.
Here is that Jake Ball ruck clear-out that did for Niall Ronan. Judge for yourself.
Back to the reality of this match and Munster will need a big effort to get something out of this game. They are against the wind now and their pack is getting shunted by the Scarlets front eight.
Close, oh so close. Jonathan Edwards charges down an attempted Jones clearance and would have been in for a simple try but the ball ran dead and Munster breath again. It is really hooping down with rain now.
Wian du Preez is blown up for dragging his opponent’s arm down in the scrum but Thomas misses his penalty attempt. Munster are penned back in their 22 and it is not looking good.
What did you all make of that head-first tackle on Ronan – unfortunate accident or a date with the citing commish? Edward Timoney – in our comments section – wants a citing.
Felix Jones is the best thing about this game, despite that clearance attempt being blocked about five minutes ago. He beats three Scarlets players up the left and chips on before Aled Thomas tackles him out of the move and off the pitch.
Life can be stanky sometimes. I’m 132 minutes into my second liveblog of the weekend and I’ve witnessed 12 points [all from the kicking tee] scored in torrential conditions. @SeanFarrell_12 may have been cold at the Aviva Stadium yesterday but he got to witness an Ireland win, 70 points scored, nine tries and the sun was out for a while.
Scarlets getting frustrated by sturdy Munster defence so Thomas has a pop at a drop. His effort is well wide.
Munster working themselves into the Scarlets 22 with disciplined, phase play in woeful conditions. Not a day for flinging the ball about the backline. 20 minutes to go in Cork.
Wallace family humour.
A good attacking scrum 20 metres from the Scarlets posts is lost and the visitors hoof clear.
One man is doing his utmost to win his side the game. Felix Jones claims a high ball and scythes through the Welsh midfield before finding Keatley. The out-half chips forward but Reynolds slid in to prevent a try near his line. Another scrum goes against the home side though. Extremely frustrating stuff for the sodden fans at Musgrave.
Munster get spun and mushed in the scrum again and Thomas bravely opts for a kick at the posts in horrid conditions. He is 40 metres out and to left of the posts but his kick finds the target, off a post, and Scarlets lead 6-3.
TRY! Absolute disaster for Munster and Felix Jones. He chases back to cover a hacked kick into his 22 and spills the ball, not once but twice. Andy Denby is haring in behind him and he pounces to touch down. That is nightmare stuff from Munster’s best player on the day.
Thomas makes a difficult conversion and it is now Munster 3-13 Scarlets after 71 minutes. No way back now by the looks of it and Duncan Williams spills a ball forward before Peter Stringer replaces him.
Thomas tries another penalty from the right touchline but misses. He won’t mind too much as the whole kick routine eats up another minute of time. Six minutes to go and Munster look resigned to defeat.
Stewards, get out from those golf umbrellas and get to your end of match positions please.
Munster collapse a maul and Thomas scutters a poor penalty kick a grand height of three feet off the ground. Rob Penney’s grand schemes for Munster may be scuppered if he can not assemble a decent front row. Dave Kilcoyne and BJ Botha may help but the options are slim.
Scarlets hooker Emyr Phillips gets the sponsors man-of-the-match award and Munster have a penalty kick that could get them a losing bonus point. JJ Hanrahan sizes it up.
Hanrahan lands it and the game finishes Munster 6-13 Scarlets. That losing bonus point could prove crucial at the end of the season but it will give cold comfort to the reds today. The seven-point difference will make Felix Jones feel even worse about himself as his botched attempts to ghather a greasy ball cost his side dearly. FULL-TIME
We’ll sign off from Musgrave Park as Munster supporters traipse home cursing a scrum that squandered countless visits to the Scarlets 22. We wish Niall Ronan the very best after he sustained that sickening blow to the head after about 30 minutes of the match.
Not a good weekend for Irish sides in the Pro12 as two lose, Leinster struggle to a 6-0 win Glasgow and Ulster get out of Treviso by the skin of their skinless teeth. Thanks for your company and feel free to add your comments and opinions below.