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Munster Have It All To Do

April 16, 2011 12:00 am By Munster Rugby

When these sides met in Musgrave Park back in November there was only a point separating them at the end with Munster scrambling desperately to hang on. It’ll be every bit as close this evening in Parc Y Scarlets with the hosts knowing that victory will keep them in the running for a place in the semi-finals.

The record books may show that Munster have won the last ten encounters but only one point or two have separated  the sides here in Wales since Scarlets last beat them 25-12 here in 2007.

"We've had some close games with Munster," says Scarlets coach Nigel Davies, "but the one thing they do is carry a lot of experience and in key moments they tend to make the right decisions because of that experience."

The experience Davies refers to will be provided tonight by the likes Paul Warwick whose 10th minute stoppage time penalty from half way gave Munster a 24-23 victory in Stradey in 2008, Peter Stringer, now Munster's most capped player, Marcus Horan, Mick O'Driscoll and captain Denis Leamy.

And their leadership will be vital as coach Tony McGahan gives youth in the shape of Simon Zebo, Danny Barnes, Declan Cusack, Mick Sherry, Stephen Archer, and from the bench Scott Deasy and Paddy Butler, its fling.

For their part Scarlets will be without influential centre Jonathan Davies and prop Deacon Manu but on the plus side there's young wing sensation George North, the gifted Regan King and Scot Sean Lamont who will ask serious questions of the Munster defence.

Home advantage the theirs being much the greater need make Scarlets the favourites to edge what should be another enthralling and nerve jangling encounter that will go right down to the wire.

Scarlets: M Stoddart; G North, R King, G Maule, S Lamont; R Priestland, T Knoyle; I Thomas, M Rees (capt), R Thomas; L Reed, J Turnbull; R McCusker, J Edwards, D Lyons. Replacements: E Phillips, R Jones, S Gardiner, A Shingler, D Welch, G Davies, S Jones, S Williams.

Munster: P Warwick; S Zebo, J Murphy, L Mafi, D Barnes; D Cusack, P Stringer; M Horan, M Sherry, S Archer; D Ryan, M O'Driscoll; T O'Donnell, N Ronan, D Leamy (capt). Replacements: D Fogarty, D Hurley, J Hayes, A Quinlan, P Butler, D Williams, S Tuitupou, S Deasy.

Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland).

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McGahan’s Bold Approach Rewarded

April 17, 2011 12:00 am By Munster Rugby

Tony McGahan’s willingness to throw his twenty somethings into the Magners fray in the difficult surrounds of Parc Y Scarlets paid rich dividends when Munster secured a home semi final with a 13-6 win over the Scarlets last Saturday evening.

And it was one of those twenty somethings, Simon Zebo, who notched the crucial score when he pounced on a loose ball in the 68th minute to kick downfield, control and score the try that separated the sides at the final whistle. The Cork Con speedster, who celebrated his 21st birthday last month, also illuminated the first half with a brilliant 15th minute break from his own 22 that ended in the Scarlets 22 and he picked up the Man of the Match accolade for what was a good night's performance.

He must however have had stiff competition from 23 year olds Tommy O'Donnell and Stephen Archer, 22 year old Mike Sherry and two veterans of the side, skipper Denis Leamy (29) and the marvelously consistent Mick O'Driscoll. Once again their set-piece serves them extremely well, the scrum in particular providing a solid platform and even when McGahan rang the changes in the front row, it occurred with a reassuring seamlessness.

It was never a classic, Scarlets need to win to keeps their play off hopes alive not helped by a few penalty misses at crucial times by their out-half Rhys Priestland.

For their part Munster made the most of their chances while defensively they worked their socks off from minute one to eighty.

The first clear chance fell to the home side when the elegant Regan King worked the space to earn an overlap but George North failed to collect his long pass with the line at his mercy. That  was really the last we saw of North as a threat though King continued to tease and tantalise but was well tracked and tethered by Lifeimi Mafi and then also Sam Tuitupou when he arrived as a 41st minute replacement for Declan Cusack who sustained a shoulder injury.

Priestland kicked the Scarlets in front with an 18th minute penalty just after that great Zebo break and then it was Paul Warwick who carved open the Scarlets defence to instigate a move that ended with Cusack being pushed into touch five metres out.

A 39th Warwick penalty tied it up and the Stade Francais bound playmaker kicked his side in front in injury time.

Priestland should have leveled earlier than the 51st minute and then when Scarlets tried to counter from their own 22 Zebo was on hand to punish the mistake with Warwick landing a marvellous touchline conversion.

Priestland was wide again in the 74th minute and the home side launched a series of attacks in a desperate effort to salvage their season but Munster continued to defend like dervishes to emerge worthy winners.

Munster: P Warwick; S Zebo, J Murphy (S Deasy 44th min), L Mafi, D Barnes; D Cusack (S Tuitupou 41st min), P Stringer (D Williams 68th min) ; M Horan (D Hurley 66th min), M Sherry (D Fogarty 55th min), S Archer (J Hayes 55th min); D Ryan, M O'Driscoll; T O'Donnell, N Ronan (A Quinlan 57th min), D Leamy capt.

Scarlets: M Stoddart; G North, R King, G Maule, S Lamont; R Priestland, T Knoyle; I Thomas, M Rees capt, R Thomas; L Reed, J Turnbull; R McCusker, J Edwards, D Lyons. Replacements: E Phillips, R Jones, S Gardiner, A Shingler, D Welch, G Davies, S Jones, S Williams.

Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland).

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