Munster 19-13 Scarlets (FT)
12.32 – This weekend’s Heineken Cup continues with Munster’s clash with the Scarlets at Thomond Park. The Reds, of course, won in Wales last time out and a win today would have them well positioned to qualify for the quarter-finals of the competition. However, there’s plenty of rugby to be played…
12.33 – The big news for Munster is the return from injury of Keith Earls. The hosts line up as follows: D Hurley; J Murphy, K Earls, L Mafi, S Zebo; R O’Gara, C Murray; W du Preez, D Varley, BJ Botha; D O’Callaghan, P O’Connell capt; D Leamy, N Ronan, J Coughlan.
Replacements: D Fogarty, M Horan, S Archer, D Ryan, T O’Donnell, T O’Leary, I Keatley, D Barnes.
12.35 – There’s no shortage of talent or internationals in the Scarlets XV. They will out as follows: R Priestland; L Williams, S Williams, J Davies, S Lamont; S Jones, G Davies; R Jones, M Rees (capt), R Thomas, L Reed, D Welch, R McCusker, J Edwards, B Morgan.
Replacements: K Owens, P John, D Manu, S Timani, K Murphy, T Knoyle, G Maule, V Iongi.
12.40 – Donncha O’Callaghan is back in Munster’s starting team, while the Scarlets have moved Priestland to Full Back and opted for Stephen Jones at fly-half.
12.42 – The choir are finishing up on the pitch, so the teams are nearly ready to get started in Limerick.
12.44 – Matthew Rees leads the Scarlets out. The Thomond Park crowd are in the humour for a fight though – despite the early hour!
12.45 – A big day ahead for Simon Zebo – what a season it has been for him so far – and Earls, who’s coming back from injury.
12.46 – Dave Pearson is our referee today as Priestland gets the action underway.
12.48 – A break by Stephen Jones give Scarlets some possession. Two players cross in the seventh phase though, and it’s Munster ball.
12.51 – PENALTY! Ronan O’Gara kicks Munster ahead after Gareth Davies is pinged by Pearson for blocking James Coughlan’s charge forward. The number eight was chasing a lovely ball forward from his fly-half with Earls also getting in on the action early.
12.55 – Ominous = not having beaten Munster in 13 meetings and playing them in Limerick in the Heineken Cup…
12.57 – A couple of scrums has seen either side getting the better of the other. Scarlets have no hope today unless they get their pack working and the last call from Pearson sees a lot of encouragement and back slapping from the Welsh outfit.
12.58 – Varley and Rees continue to have their own mini duel at each set piece.
13.00 – PENALTY! A break from Jon Davies sees Scarlets put a number of phases together in Munster’s 22 and the pressure sees the home side cough up a penalty. Jones, duly, levels the score.
13.01 – Scarlets have two thirds of possession at the moment…
13.03 – Rees flattens O’Gara as Scarlets drive forward again. Unfortunately for Davies, support isn’t quick enough arriving and Pearson awards the penalty to Munster.
13.06 – The latest carries stat will also be of concern to Tony McGahan: Scarlets 31 Munster 6. All the good running is coming from Scarlets at the moment and you feel it’s only a matter of time before something clicks.
13.07 – A fine clearance kick from O’Gara lifts the pressure briefly. Munster need to get their back line into this and to start collecting their line outs.
13.10 – Pearson has a word with both scrums as the pack war continues to rage. The free kick is Scarlets after the latest engagement.
13.10 – Zebo stretches his legs for the first time today, but a knock on means it’s Scarlets ball.
13.15 – Munster finally get some decent time with the ball and it’s all vintage Reds – pick and go, inching forward to the Scarlets line until a knock on turns possession over to the men in black. Regardless, better from the Reds and exactly what they need to do more of.
13.18 – Munster get a penalty close to half way but O’Gara kicks for the line with ten minutes left in the opening half.
13.20 – Conor Murray and Johne Murphy combine to drive on from the line out. However, the ball shoots out of a ruck and is picked up by Rees. Pearson whistles for the knock on though.
13.24 – PENALTY! A superb scrum from Munster sees them drive the Scarlets back and earn a penalty right in front of the posts, which O’Gara duly dispatches between the posts.
13.26 – An excellent restart from Priestland has Munster in trouble as O’Connell is unable to claim the ball properly. Jones misses his kick though, sending the ball left and wide of the posts.
13.29 – Munster finally get a move going – from O’Gara through Earls and Zebo – and though the latter gets the line, he uses three movements according to Pearson, so it’s a penalty to Scarlets.
13.31 – HALF TIME: Pearson brings the first half to an end. Scarlets played most of the rugby in the opening 40 minutes but the Reds started to get on top up front in the final ten minutes and almost scored the game’s first try on the back of that dominance. A very interesting second half coming right up…
13.41 – Munster haven’t been at their best and are still in front. How many times has that happened before??! Nigel Davies, on the hand, will have had some amount of work to do in the Scarlets’ dressing room at half time given the chances his team has created and not finished. You can’t do that and win at Thomond Park…
13.44 – The teams are back on the pitch.
13.47 – O’Gara misses a reasonably decent penalty kick after some early pressure from Munster.
13.49 – PENALTY! Scarlets cough up an easier kick within a minute and this time O’Gara makes no mistake.
13.54 – Scarlets earn another chance to reduce the gap. Priestland takes the ball this time but sends his kick right and with. Pressure mounting on the kickers…
13.57 – A wonderful break from Murray, Varley and Murphy brings Munster right up to the Scarlets line. Edwards intentionally gets in the way to stall the momentum and is sent to the sin bin without a second thought from Pearson.
13.58 – TRY! O’Connell takes the line out throw and the pack drives forward to allow James Coughlan over. O’Gara converts and from being within a whisker of 9-6, Scarlets are now 3-16 and a man down within a matter of minutes.
14.02 – PENALTY! Priestland gets a chance to atone for his earlier miss and reduces the gap to ten points.
14.09 – PENALTY! Incredible defence initially from Scarlets. Munster camp on their try line for several phases but they hold on until the assistant referee spots an infringement. O’Gara adds the extras, his kick guided inside by the post on this occasion.
14.09 – Donncha Ryan is on for Denis Leamy in the back row.
14.10 – Tómas O’Leary is on for Murray, who had a very decent game in red again today.
14.13 – Denis Hurley fails to gather a horrible bounce and while Edwards, now back on the pitch, seems to score a try, Pearson whistles for the scrum.
14.14 – TRY SCARLETS! Quick ball off the back of that scrum sees Ben Morgan gain some valuable metres before Ken Owens, on for Rees, dives over. Priestland converts and suddenly we’re back within one score…
14.16 – Munster are under the cosh at the moment as Scarlets come driving forward again through Edwards. Thomond Park is even a little nervous right now…
14.18 – A terrible decision by O’Leary. He opts to run with ball in hand but is caught in possession and concedes a penalty. Priestland goes for the line…
14.20 – Scarlets retain the ball in the line out but their attack ends when the ball is knocked forward by replacement scrum-half Tavis Knoyle. Good defence from Munster but the game is genuinely hanging in the balance here.
14.23 – Five minutes left on the clock. It’s all Scarlets right now.
14.26 – The sides exchange kicks…
14.28 – Priestland finds a gap but is hauled to the ground by O’Callaghan. Superb tackle from the lock. Rhys Thomas is sent to the sin bin for the flare up immediately afterwards.
14.30 – The final whistle blows. Munster have escaped with another win.
14.32 – Munster are now five points ahead of Scarlets in their pool with Northampton v Castres later today. It wasn’t great from the Reds but they really do know how to win a game under pressure at this stage.
14.34 – Scarlets will be disappointed. Munster were there to be beaten by the Welsh side for the first time in eight years but a series of unforced handling and kicking errors – as well as some Murray magic for the try – caused their downfall.
14.37 – Positives for Munster: Another win, four more points, a cool and collect performance from Conor Murray, Earls’ return from injury, BJ Botha’s improving form.
14.40 – That’s all from Thomond Park today. We’ll review all the Irish Heineken Cup action later this evening with our Hard Yards round-up, and it’s back to the RaboDirect Pro12 for Munster, Leinster, Ulster and Connacht over the coming fortnight.