A Munster side shorn of a host of big names defeated a Llanelli Scarlets side minus almost all the names who will be pencilled into the teamsheet for next Saturday’s Heineken Cup semi-final in front of a noisy Musgrave Park crowd on Saturday.
Munster led eight nil at the break thanks to a Marcus Horan try and Ronan O’Gara penalty but they upped the tempo in the second half, produced some superb phases of play with Brian Carney once again catching the eye along with man of the match Lifeimi Mafi and Donnacha Ryan.
It was Carney ‘s take, of an O’Gara crossfield kick, and superb offload that sent Barry Murphy on his way for Munster’s second try but every time he got himself involved whether in attack or impressive defence, Carney looked a bit special. Inside him, Mafi was always willing to have a go and he proved a constant thorn in the side of the Scarlets.
Munster took the lead in the 4th minute when Horan went over following a rolling maul from a five metre lineout and O’Gara’s conversion attempt from the acute angle came back off the right upright.
Scarlets then laid siege to the Munster line and after several drives from their pack were repelled, they went wide but without any gain.
Towards the close of the half Munster produced their best phase when Ryan, Frank Sheahan, Murphy and Anthony Horgan caused havoc on the Llanelli right flank and when the visitors went offside O’Gara knocked over the penalty for an eight point lead.
Llanelli lost James Bater to the sin bin for a late tackle on Mossy Lawlor in what looked a harsh decision and in injury time first Mafi and then Murphy made clean breaks but to no avail, Murphy just failing to put O’Gara in under the posts.
Just after the restart O’Gara threaded through a delightful kick that was gathered by Carney and he in turn offloaded brilliantly to put Murphy in for the try. Carney then showed his class, collecting a ball in his own 22 and bursting clear to take play to the Llanelli 10 metre line. Munster worked the ball left, Murphy offloaded superbly to O’Gara who had a clear run to the sticks but was whistled back by referee Paul Allen for a forward pass.
It needed a brave Lawlor tackle on replacement Garan Evans to keep Munster’s line intact but the riposte was provided by an O’Leary break carried on by Donncha O’Callaghan and John O’Sullivan to take play inside the Llanelli 22.
Munster won themselves a scrum and with the Scarlets pack in disarray skipper Anthony Foley dived over for the try. O’Gara’s conversion leaving Munster 20-0 in front.
To their credit the Scarlets continued to press and Foley had to produce a smashing tackle in midfield to deny Inoke Afeaki. But Munster were soon back on the front foot and only dogged Llanelli defence denied them the bonus point try.
Munster: M Lawlor; B Carney, B Murphy (J Kelly 74 min), L Mafi, A Horgan; R O’Gara, T O’Leary; M Horan (F Pucciariello 65 min), F Sheahan (D Fogarty 80 min) , J Hayes; D O’Callaghan, M O’Driscoll (C Wyatt 71 mins); D Ryan, J O’Sullivan, A Foley capt.
Llanelli Scarlets: B Davies; D Daniel, M Watkins, G Evans (P Mackey 65 min), M Jones (G Evans 51 mins) ; C Thomas, L Davies (C Stuart-Smith 77 min); P John (J Davies 61 min), K Owens D George 77 min), C Dunlea (J Davies 14 mins temp); I Afeaki, A Jones; D Jones, J Bater capt (G Thomas 68 min), N Thomas.
Referee: Paul Allen (SRU).