Efficient Munster quell Scarlets’ fire at Thomond Park
Defending champions made to pay for first half profligacy as province turn the screw
Alex Wootton scores Munster’s key third try against the Scarlets as Tom Varndell makes the tackle. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Munster 19 Scarlets 7
Munster began their preparations for a Champions Cup quarter-final meeting against Toulon as Alex Wootton scored the final try and they saw off reigning Pro 12 champions Scarlets at Thomond Park.
This was the first time Munster and Scarlets faced off since the Welsh registered a stunning 46-22 victory in the Pro 12 final at the Aviva Stadium in May.
James Hart scored the Munster try in the first-half but they trailed by 7-5 at half-time, and Wayne Pivac’s side impressed before the interval.
Scarlets signalled their intent as early as the fourth minute when Munster loosehead prop Dave Kilcoyne was a penalised, and the visitors chose to kick down the line rather than going for goal.
That attack didn’t work out but they did score in the seventh minute. It was a move started by blindside flanker Aaron Shingler when he fielded a ball in the back-field, and it ended with openside flanker James Davies’ assist for Aled Davies to score.
Rhys Patchell scored the conversion and Scarlets came in search of a second try straight away. Tom Varndell and Will Boyde came up short and they were almost hit against the run of play in the 18th minute.
Rhys Patchell’s pass to Paul Asquith was knocked on by Wootton and after he went the length of the field to score, play was called back.
Scarlets were still 7-0 ahead and Munster finally got some front foot ball before the half-hour but it was Tadhg Beirne, who will play for the province next season, who forced a turnover.
But the Scarlets had failed to make their early pressure count and the hosts scored their first try in the 28th minute. It took a consultation between referee Marius Mitrea and his TMO Matteo Liperini, but the try was awarded for former Grenoble and Racing 92 scrum-half Hart.
Ian Keatley missed the conversion but Patchell also missed with his second kick at goal, after Copeland had played the scrum-half at a ruck.
It meant that Scarlets only held a narrow 7-5 lead at half-time after an enthralling 40 minutes of rugby. And Munster scored their second try eight minutes after the resumption.
Copeland made a brilliant interception to gain possession inside his own 22 and Hart cleared well before Varndell’s poor kick cost Scarlets territory. The Wootton broke through a gap in midfield. Munster continued to build and Copeland finished it off.
But it was costly as Tommy O’Donnell left the field injured ahead of next Saturday’s huge fixture against the Top14 giants in Limerick.
Munster thought they were 17-5 in front with 14 minutes remaining but the TMO and referee agreed that Cronin was guilty of double movement.
However Munster scored the crucial third try in the 78th minute when Wootton touched down. Keatley scored his second conversion and Sam Arnold came in search of bonus point but Munster settled for the win.
Scorers - Munster: Tries: J Hart 28, R Copeland 48, A Wootton 78 Cons: I Keatley (2) Scarlets: Tries: A Davies 7 Cons: R Patchell
Munster: JJ Hanrahan; C Nash, S Arnold, R Scannell, A Wootton; I Keatley, J Hart; D Kilcoyne, R Marshall, J Ryan; J Kleyn, B Holland; J O’Donoghue, T O’Donnell, R Copeland. Replacements: D O’Callaghan for O’Donnell (48 mins), N Scannell for Marshall (54 mins), J Cronin for Kilcoyne (54 mins), S Archer for Ryan (54 mins), D Goggin for R Scannell (64 mins), G Grobler for Kleyn (67 mins), S Fitzgerald for (73 mins), J Stafford for Hart (79 mins).
Scarlets: T Williams; T Varndell, S Williams, P Asquith, S Evans; R Patchell, A Davies; D Evans, R Elias, S Lee; T Beirne, D Bulbring; A Shingler, J Davies, W Boyde. Replacements: E Phillips for Elias (54 mins), P Price for D Evans (54 mins), W Kruger for Lee (54 mins), J Macleod for Shingler (54 mins), J Evans for Davies (60 mins), L Rawlins for Beirne (62 mins), D Jones for T Williams (64 mins), S Hughes for S Williams (68 mins).
Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR).