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Scarlets take the spoils in frenetic battle of the reds at Thomond Park

By Aidan Corr
Guinness PRO12:
Munster 21, Scarlets 30
WITH many predicting another victory for a Munster side that had nearly forgotten what it is like to lose, and another bonus point victory in the offing at the break with three tries in the bag and a 21-6 lead, Munster were shocked by the Scarlets in a thrilling second half. Three tries in a blistering period in the third quarter silenced the home support and ends a long unbeaten run for Rassie’s side.
Much of Munster’s work was done in the opening half, the home side varying their play from attacking mauls to some astute kicking from Bleyendaal and some great running lines from a hungry backline. Three tries, Taute, Sweetman and Oliver scoring, all converted by the outstanding Bleyendaal, told the story of the opening 40 minutes with the Welsh visitors’ only reward a brace of penalties from Daniel Jones.
The Scarlets did themselves no favours by knocking on from the restart but they succeeded in putting together one of their best spells of the game, eventually winning a penalty on the ten metre line but Daniel Jones put his kick wide of the left hand post at the Ballynanty end. Munster went into a quiet phase as the Welsh enjoyed the better of the opening ten minutes and Daniel Jones had another shot at the posts, this time from a metre outside the 22 to reduce the lead to 21-9.
While the home side was expected to motor on with some ease for the bonus point, it was the Scarlets who had the better of the third quarter and they got their reward. Aled Davies putting a clever kick into the path of Hadleigh Parkes for a well-taken try which Daniel Jones converted and then, dramatically, Johnny McNichol showed a clear pair of heels to the home defence for a brillianly taken try which Jones converted. The Scarlets scored again on 62 minutes, this time it was winger Tom Willliams who had the strength to get past the home defence and Jones’ sixth successful shot at the posts pushed the visitors into a sensational 21-30 lead with 25 minutes to go.
Urged on by the home crowd, Munster upped their game. A super catch and break by Conway ingited the side, Saili went close to force a five metre scrum only for the front row to go down and a penalty was awarded to the Scarlets. Conor Oliver then made a great break but the final pass missed its target and with seven minutes to go, Munster were in dire straits for a quick score. They won a penalty near the 22, popped it into touch but the Scarlets held up the maul. Same again, another penalty to the home side, lineout and maul and this time it took the TMO to decide that there was a Welsh hand under the ball. Another scrum, five metres out, this time Munster run it but there is a knock-on and the Scarlets breathe again as they hold out for a famous victory.
The first half saw Munster going behind after just two minutes. Full-back Jaco Taute spilled a pass on his own 22, the home side went offside trying to retrieve the danger and Daniel Jones landed the easy penalty. With ten minutes played the visitors looked comfortable. Their scrum was solid, they ran the ball well they stood up the a series of Munster attacks. Left wing Tom Williams looked lively but the frailty of the Scarlets’ defence was shown up on 12 minutes, Tyler Bleyendaal stepping inside the tackler to throw a sublime reverse pass to Dave O’Callaghan and with men over, Jaco Taute got over for a try with Bleyendaal increasing his impressive ratio from the kicking tee to put his side 7-3 in front.
The visitors responded well and a second Daniel Jones penalty, this time from inside the ten metre line, reduced the lead to a single point at 6-7 with 16 minutes played. With the Scarlets’ pack competing well at the breakdown, Munster began to vary their game. Bleyendaal put in a nifty kick, Darren Sweetman fielded brilliantly and after a number of phases Darren Sweetman raced over, after a double fumble, for the home side’s second try, again converted by Tyler Bleyendall for a 14-6 lead.
On 28 minutes, Dan Goggin and Ronan O’Mahony combined to widen the gap between the sides, Conor Oliver haring over for his second try at this level. Bleyendaal made it three out of three from the conversion and the home side were in sight of a bonus point victory. A break by Aaron Shingler gave promise of the Scarlets’ reply but a dropped pass spoiled the move close to the home line. Munster could do nothing wrong at this stage with Sweetman and Bleyendaal giving a display of spectacular fielding. Half time, Munster 21, Scarlets 6.
Scorers, Munster, tries Jaco Taute, Darren Sweetman, Conor Oliver; three conversions Tyler Bleyendaal; Scarlets, tries Hadleigh Parkes, Johnny McNicholl, Tom Willliams; three penalties and three conversions Daniel Jones.
Munster: Jaco Taute; Darren Sweetnam, Francis Saili, Dan Goggin, Ronan O’Mahony; Tyler Bleyendaal, capt., Duncan Williams; Dave Kilcoyne, Rhys Marshall, Stephen Archer; Dave Foley, Billy Holland; Dave O’Callaghan, Tommy O’Donnell, Conor Oliver.
Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Peter McCabe, Brian Scott, Darren O’Shea, Fineen Wycherley, Abrie Griesel, Ian Keatley, Andrew Conway (for Taute 53).
Scarlets: Johnny McNicholl, DTH van der Merwe, Steff Hughes, Hadleigh Parkes, captain, Tom Williams; Dan Jones, Jonathan Evans; Wyn Jones, Ryan Elias, Werner Kruger; Tom Price, Tadhg Beirne; Aaron Shingler, James Davies, Will Boyde
Replacements: Dafydd Hughes, Luke Garrett, Nicky Thomas, Rynier Bernardo, Morgan Allen, Aled Davies (for Evans 46), Aled Thomas, Ioan Nicholas.
Referee: Mike Adamson, SRU.
Scarlets head coach Wayne Pivac

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