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Scarlets Wont Be Distracted

December 10, 2011 12:00 am By Munster Rugby

Going into this crucial first game of the December back-to-backs, although Scarlets hold the whip hand with home advantage, all the pressure is on them to deliver on early promise.

That win in Franklin's Gardens puts them very much in the driving seat to emerge from the Pool stages for the first time since 2007 when they defeated Munster in the Stradey quarter – and there's a definite air of confidence about their camp in the run up to the Parc Y Scarlets encounter with Munster.

"Our young guys have no fear and want we want to give it our best shot." says Rhys Priestland – not exactly an ancient mariner himself – in today's South Wales Herald. "You need that against Munster as you can get distracted by their pedigree.

"We will show Munster a lot of respect as they've earned it. But we need to back ourselves and go with the mentality to give it our best shot."

And even if the young out-half is stating the obvious, nothing less will do. For either side.

As BJ Botha remarked earlier this week nothing that has gone before in meetings between the sides will count for anything this afternoon.

Last time they met in the Pool stages, Munster won home and away, the away game in Stradey played in filthy weather that produced that famous multi phase play that has only just been superseded by the other multi-phase end game against Northampton Saints in Thomond Park Stadium.

There's no question but that Scarlets have the strike runners to hurt Munster if they're given quality front foot ball. Nor is there any question about Munster's ability to deny them.

When Priestland talks about pedigree, an applies it to Munster, he's spot-on. They have Heineken Cup pedigree coursing through their veins and this afternoon there's no better side than Scarlets to test that quality.

On the day that Ronan O'Gara steps out to win his 100th Heineken Cup cap, he'll have a major influence. But it's likely to come down to who wins the forward battle and, although they lead the table, this is a game the Scarlets just cannot afford to lose.

Munster: D Hurley; J Murphy, W Chambers, L Mafi, S Zebo; R O'Gara, C Murray; W du Preez, D Varley, BJ Botha; D Ryan, P O'Connell capt; P O'Mahony, N Ronan, J Coughlan. Replacements: D Fogarty, M Horan, J Hayes, D O'Callaghan, D Leamy, T O'Leary, I Keatley, D Barnes.

Scarlets: L Williams; G North, S Williams, J Davies, S Lamont; R Priestland, G Davies; I Thomas, M Rees capt, R Thomas; S Timani, D Welch; A Shingler, R McCusker, B Morgan. Replacements: K Owens, P John, D Manu, K Murphy, J Edwards, T Knoyle, S Jones, V Iongi.  

Referee: R Poite.

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Set-Piece & Defence Gives Munster The Edge

December 11, 2011 12:00 am By Munster Rugby

Munster’s 17-14 victory over Scarlets in Llanelli in front of a record Pool crowd (13,183) was fashioned by a solid set-piece and superb end-game defence in either 22s.

Leading by just three points after replacement Stephen Jones had kicked a 67th minute penalty, the home side were then handed an ideal attacking platform when Jones launched a massive penalty from half-way to find touch five metres from the Munster line. 

There followed a series of frenzied drives for the Munster line that were only resisted because players were prepared to put exhausted bodies once more on the line. And it ended nearly ten minutes later when Munster won the put in for the pack to win a penalty that Ronan O'Gara boomed down to half way.

Even then the danger wasn't over because Scarlets regained possession but this time Munster were defending on the Scarlets 22 and eventually a knock-on signaled the end of this particular installment that was never less than compelling.

It started well for the home side who capitalised when Will Chambers pass went to Simon Zebo's feet, Liam Willams hacked ahead and Adam Shingler gathered to score with less than ten minutes played. Rhys Priestland, who minutes earlier had missed a kickable penalty, saw his conversion attempt come back off the right upright and Munster were indeed fortunate to be just eight points down.

Their early play had been littered with impatience and coughed up ball but by the start of the second quarter they began to ease their way into the game thanks to strong carries from skipper Paul O'Connell, Damien Varley and James Coughlan and the steady hand of O'Gara.

Their first bit of invention was inspired by the out-half winning his 100th Heineken Cup cap, when his first deft chip ahead was gathered by Simon Zebo – winning his first Heineken Cup cap – who went racing into Scarlets territory. When the ball was re-cycled another clever O'Gara kick had Scarlets scrambling back to gather with Lifeimi Mafi winning a five metre scrum when he nailed Priestland behind the goal-line.  

From the resultant scrum Munster forced the penalty and O'Gara opened their account.

There was better to come four minutes later when Denis Hurley and Johne Murphy all played their part to send Niall Ronan stepping for the line, Hurley with a sublime one-handed off load and Murphy stepping inside to allow space for Ronan up along the touchline.

Another penalty just before half-time sent Munster in at the break three points up but Priestland made it all square nine minutes into the second half.

O'Gara was on the mark in the 54th and 61st minutes to push his side six clear while Jones was waiting to enter the fray when Priestland dragged another penalty left and wide in the 67th minute.

With eleven minutes to go Jones kicked the penalty to leave it a three point game and then the large Munster attendance had to endure that Scarlets assault before the siege was lifted by a magnificent pack and O'Gara's right boot.

Scarlets: D Newton (S Jones 57); L Williams (V Iongi 76), S Williams, J Davies, S Lamont; R Priestland, G Davies (T Knoyle); I Thomas (K Owens 62) M Rees (P John 62), R Thomas (D Manu 75); S Timani (K Murphy 62), D Welch; A Shingler (J Edwards 45), R McCusker, B Morgan.

Munster: D Hurley; J Murphy, W Chambers (D Barnes 55 mins), L Mafi, S Zebo; R O'Gara, C Murray (T O'Leary 62 mins); W du Preez (M Horan 75 mins) , D Varley, BJ Botha (J Hayes 76 mins); D Ryan (D O'Callaghan 55 mins), P O'Connell; P O'Mahony (D Leamy h-t), N Ronan, J Coughlan.

Referee: R Poite (France)

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