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Munster utterly outclassed as sensational Scarlets earn Pro12 title in Dublin
Rassie Erasmus’ men were poor as they gave up six tries to the Welsh side at the Aviva Stadium.

Munster 22

Scarlets 46

Murray Kinsella reports from the Aviva Stadium

THE SCARLETS ARE a devastating force when they burst into their flurries of attacking brilliance and Munster simply could not live with the latest demonstration from the Welsh side, whose four tries in 22 first-half minutes helped fire them to Pro12 glory.

Steff Evans scores a try Billy Stickland / INPHO Steff Evans crosses for Scarlets. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Munster had been well warned of what the Scarlets are capable of, with Wayne Pivac’s men having torn Leinster, Ospreys and Connacht apart in recent weeks, but the southern province were incapable of stemming the tide in a ruinous first half.

The real shame for Munster is that they delivered one of their worst performances of the season on the big occasion, and Rassie Erasmus will know now more than ever that he has major work to do ahead of next season.

It had been a positive campaign overall, with a Champions Cup semi-final and this appearance in the Guinness Pro12 decider, but Munster’s failure to really fire a shot in both of those games points to the shortcomings of this squad.

Their attacking game is vastly underdeveloped in contrast to the Scarlets, whose confident, positive and enthusiastic intent was rewarded with their first league title since 2004.

Pivac has masterfully led their title run with his relaxed and inclusive brand of coaching, while attack coach Stephen Jones – the former Wales out-half – has perfectly harnessed the brilliant individual players in this Scarlets squad into a barnstorming collective.

Their desire for width consistently exposed a Munster defence that had previously been superb under Jacques Nienaber’s watch. But the South African defence coach will have sleepless nights reflecting on how stunned Munster seemed by the Scarlets attack, as well as their shocking one-on-one tackling.

Francis Saili tackled by Scott Williams Billy Stickland / INPHO Munster were badly off form in the final. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Lions wing Liam Williams, the prolific Steff Evans, intelligent scrum-half Gareth Davies and outstanding Irish lock Tadhg Beirne all dotted down in the Scarlets’ whirlwind period of attacking excellence, while they were the better defensive team and out-thought Munster’s pack.

Replacement wing DTH van der Merwe beat three tired tackles late on for the Scarlets’ fifth try, following superb handling from impressive midfield pair Scott Williams and Jonathan Davies, who looks primed for a good run at the Lions’ 13 shirt.

And openside James Davies rounded off their scoring with a sixth try in the final minute to ensure a well-earned 24-point winning margin, a record margin in a Pro12 final.

While Scarlets made them look bad, Munster tackled poorly, kicked inaccurately and offered little in the way of threat with their possession. Tyler Bleyendaal scored a try in the first half, while Andrew Conway and Keith Earls also added late consolation scores, but they were rare positive moments on a dark day for Munster.

Their first half was disastrous, as the Scarlets ripped their shambolic defence apart inside the opening 32 minutes, scoring four tries.

Liam Williams scores the first try of the game despite the attention of Keith Earls Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Liam Williams was over first, getting on the end of a clever Rhys Patchell diagonal kick to the right corner, beating Earls to the bounce and sending Scarlets 5-3 ahead after Bleyendaal’s early penalty.

The second was even better, as Beirne’s superb hands released Jonathan Davies on the left after Francis Saili shot up needlessly, the Lions centre breaking form deep in the Welsh side’s half and exchanging passes with Evans before offloading back to the pacy left wing to score a try Patchell converted.

There was almost a replica only moments later as Scarlets burst from deep again, but James Davies’ potential scoring pass to Gareth Davies was forward.

There was a hint of forward about the scrum-half’s confirmed try in the 28th minute, but the TMO review came back positively for Scarlets and Scott Williams’ big linebreak and inside pass to Davies was rewarded.

Munster’s basic tackling was failing them by now, and Beirne hammered his way over form close-range for the fourth, beating John Ryan, Dave Kilcoyne, CJ Stander and Niall Scannell as he spun to dot down, allowing Patchell to kick Scarlets into a barely believable 29-3 lead.

Erasmus’ men did manage to close the gap just before the break, Conor Murray sending Bleyendaal darting over to the left of the posts for a try he converted, leaving Munster trailing 29-10 at the interval.

Tadhg Beirne scores a try Billy Stickland / INPHO Irish lock Beirne scores Scarlets' fourth try. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

In desperate need of a strong start to the second 40, Munster instead continued where they had let off, failing to stretch the Scarlets’ defence with an early passage of sustained possession.

Bouncing back in familiar style, Pivac’s side earned a turnover penalty near the Munster 22 and Patchell sent them 22 points clear off the tee.

The Scarlets pack was intelligent through, standing off the Munster maul at one stage to win a turnover scrum, while the likes of Beirne and captain John Barclay continued to have a big influence on the breakdown.

Munster found themselves within striking range with just over a quarter remaining, following a fine Murray kick, but then a needless penalty from captain O’Mahony, hammering into James Davies with a shoulder but no arms, lifted the pressure for Scarlets.

That was the end of the Munster challenge as they visibly deflated in the closing stages.

Van der Merwe danced his way over down the left-hand side for their fifth, before Conway finished well and Earls scored an intercept try, but it was far too little far too late and the brilliant James Davies added a sixth for the Scarlets in the final minute as he beat two poor tackles to charge over.

Munster scorers:

Tries: Tyler Bleyendaal, Andrew Conway, Keith Earls

Conversions: Tyler Bleyendaal [1 from 2], Ian Keatley [1 from 1]

Penalties: Tyler Bleyendaal [1 from 1]

Scarlets scorers:

Tries: Liam Williams, Steff Evans, Gareth Davies, Tadhg Beirne, DTH van der Merwe, James Davies

Conversions: Rhys Patchell [3 from 4], Liam Williams [2 from 2]

Penalties: Rhys Patchell [2 from 2]

MUNSTER: Simon Zebo (Ian Keatley ’61); Andrew Conway, Francis Saili, Rory Scannell (HIA – Jaco Taute ’5 to ’12, permanent ’28), Keith Earls; Tyler Bleyendaal, Conor Murray (Duncan Williams ’72); Dave Kilcoyne (Brian Scott ’68), Niall Scannell (Rhys Marshall ’55), John Ryan (Stephen Archer ’46); Donnacha Ryan, Billy Holland (Jack O’Donoghue ’53); Peter O’Mahony (captain), Tommy O’Donnell (Jean Deysel ’45), CJ Stander.

SCARLETS: Johnny McNicholl; Liam Williams, Jonathan Davies, Scott Williams, Steff Evans (DTH Van Der Merwe ’58); Rhys Patchell (Hadleigh Parkes ’55), Gareth Davies (Jonathan Evans ’52); Rob Evans (Wyn Jones ’52), Ryan Elias (Emyr Phillips ’72), Samson Lee (Werner Kruger ’28); Lewis Rawlins (David Bulbring ’62), Tadhg Beirne; Aaron Shingler, James Davies, John Barclay (captain) (Will Boyde ’62).

Referee: Nigel Owens [WRU].

Attendance: 44,558.

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