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Second Half Starts Just After Noon

December 18, 2011 12:00 am By Munster Rugby

Minutes after their crucial win in Parc Y Scarlets, Munster coach Tony McGahan, rather than luxuriating in his side’s narrow victory, was quick to point out the realities of these back-to-back games.

“Look,” he said, with no more than a relieved look on his face, ” it's just half-time in terms of these games. After tonight's game we're a win ahead, no more than that, three points gained. We have to do it all again next weekend.”
And that's what makes these back-to-backs so fascinating. They cannot decide the pools but they can for sure go a long way to determining the outcome.

If Munster win today, it guarantees them nowt, but their destiny remains firmly in their own hands. If they lose, they're still in contention.

But if Scarlets lose, they're a busted flush, but only in Heineken Cup terms.

So much at stake today for sides who are mirror images in so so many ways that for true rugby fans need no elaboration.

Munster will know they came away from Parc Y Scarlets with a four pointer that could so easily have been one. And it has to be hoped that that awareness will make them ever so careful going into today's game.

Because they'll need to be.

Because Scarlets will believe that if they tighten up a little in defence, cut out wayward kicking, sharpen up their cutting edge, then with the Maestro at 10, they can put themselves right back in the mix to reclaim those three points they think they gifted Munster last weekend.

Whether or not they can will be determined, like it or not not, by whatever latitude Ronan O'Gara, Paul O'Connell, Donncha O'Callaghan et all allow them.

Munster: 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.

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Munster Complete The Scarlets Job.

December 19, 2011 12:00 am By Munster Rugby

Munster completed the double over the Scarlets with a 19-13 victory at Thomond Park Stadium once again reserving their best for the second half.

They led 6-3 at half time thanks to a pair of Ronan O'Gara penalties and seemed to have put the game well beyond the Welsh side when James Coughlan scored a 52nn minute try that O'Gara converted for a 16-3 lead.

The expectation was that Munster would kick on from there but Scarlets weren't in any mood to wave the white flag and a Rhys Priestland penalty and his conversion of Ken Owens 66th minute try ensured another tense finish.

In that second half Scarlets twice had players  sin-binned but they still managed to cause Munster all sorts of bother with centre Jon Davies finding gaps to exploit 'n explore.

Munster were forced to work hard in defence and did so admirably up until Owen's dotted down, Scarlets given the position when a wicked bounce had the otherwise secure Denis Hurley was undone by a wicked bounce and Johne Murphy needed to make a solid tackle to avert a score.

The first half was a fairly drab affair, Davies leading the way as Scarlets ran the ball whenever the opportunity presented itself.  Stephen Jones started at out-half with Priestland at full back to give the Scarlet offence greater potency.

Munster weren't shy about running the ball themselves and Simon Zebo came closest only to be denied by Dave Pearson who adjudged he's made a double movement.

O'Gara opened Munster's account when a penalty was awarded for obstruction but Jones levelled seven minutes later. O'Gara nudged them in front with his second successful strike before Jones missed a great opportunity to level just before the break.

Munster re-emerged with clear intent and O'Gara gave them an early boost with a penalty for a 9-3 lead. Then the move of the match started just outside Munster's 22 when Conor Murray left defenders dead, his break taking play into the Welsh 22 and the subsequent lineout take from Paul O'Connell leading to Coughlan's try.

Priestland and O'Gara traded penalties and then O'Gara kicked his side into a 13 point lead only to see that reduced to six when Owens scored after a Scarlets rumble.

It ended as the previous encounter, with the Scarlets trying desperately for the try that might have seen them snatch the spoils. But Munster's defence held firm and they remain very much in charge of their own destiny.

Munster: D Hurley; J Murphy, K Earls, L Mafi, S Zebo; R O'Gara, C Murray; W du Preez, D Varley, B Botha, D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell (capt), D Leamy, N Ronan, J Coughlan. Replacements: D Ryan for Leamy, T O'Leary for Murray (both 63 mins), M Horan du Preez (71), T O'Donnell for Coughlan (77). Not used: D Fogarty, S Archer, I Keatley, D Barnes.

Scarlets: 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: V Longi for S Jones (half-time), K Owens for Rees, G Maule for L Williams (both 63 mins), P John for R Jones, S Timani for Welch, T Knoyle for Davies (all 66 mins), K Murphy for McCosker (71 mins). Not used: D Manu. Sinbinned: Edwards (51-61 mins), K Owens (79 mins).

Referee: Dave Pearson (England).

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