The key moment and talking point from Munster's win to secure their place in Europe

The key moment and talking point from Munster's win to secure their place in Europe

Munster secured their place in next season's Champions Cup after a hard-fought 31-15 victory over the Scarlets at Thomond Park earned them a sixth-place finish in the Guinness Pro12.

A disappointing season for Anthony Foley's side ended on a bright note as they scored five precious tries, three in the second half, to subdue the spirited Welshmen who had already secured their place in European rugby's top-tier competition.

Munster held a slender 14-12 half-time advantage in front of an attendance of 18,929 in Limerick.

However, three second-half tries from replacement Ronan O'Mahony, man-of-the-match CJ Stander and centre Rory Scannell - his second of the game - guided the Irish province to a crucial final-round triumph.

The Scarlets deservedly took a 10th-minute lead through a penalty goal from fly-half Steve Shingler but as they continued to attack, the Welsh region got caught with a sucker punch.

Munster forced a turnover deep inside their own 22 and quickly moved the ball left. Centre Saili sent Ireland international Keith Earls darting up the wing with a beautifully-judged grubber kick. Earls powered into the Scarlets half before finding Saili in open space and he duly scampered clear before dotting down, with Johnny Holland converting.

The home side survived a major scare in the 19th minute when a try from Scarlets winger Steffan Evans was disallowed as referee Nigel Owens ruled that Hadleigh Parkes' pass in the build-up was forward.

Shingler did gain some degree of compensation for the Scarlets when he kicked his second penalty goal two minutes later but the hosts crossed for a second try through Scannell, who barged over from close range after a series of impressive carries from the Munster forwards.

Holland's conversion made it 14-6 before the resilient Scarlets drew within two points when Shingler was again on the money with two well-struck penalty kicks.

The third quarter provided poor fare with Munster clinging to a 14-12 advantage and growing increasingly nervous until turnover ball was won on halfway and Scannell fed replacement winger O'Mahony who showed a good turn of foot to outstrip the visitors' defence and score.

The Scarlets remained very much in the contest and a fifth penalty goal from Shingler on 65 minutes cut the lead to 19-15. Munster's place in the Champions Cup was very much in doubt again.

However, a bonus-point try from captain Stander in the 69th minute gave the province a more comfortable nine-point cushion and the impressive Scannell, who is moving up from the Academy to a senior contract, rounded off the scoring with his second try late on.

The key moment and talking point from Munster's win to secure their place in Europe

By Simon Lewis

Key moment: Robin Copeland's 68th minute try which secured the bonus point that ensured Munster would be playing Champions Cup rugby next season for a 21st consecutive season. It proved academic given that both Ospreys and Edinburgh lost their final games and could not catch Munster but the province's five-try win meant Anthony Foley's side signed off on a high in front of their own supporters.

Talking point: So the Anthony Foley era ends on a bittersweet note, the victory securing top-flight European rugby with a five-try defeat of a team placed above them in the table and offering a frustrating glimpse of what might have been had his side managed to click before the 22nd and final round.

Key man: CJ Stander ended a week which saw him crowned IRUPA's players' player of the year by picking up his umpteenth man of the match award of the Pro12 campaign.

Ref watch: Nigel Owens was his usual competent self as he geared up for the Champions Cup final by taking charge of a generally clean contest, a late dust-up between the packs excepted.

Injuries: Munster suffered two early blows as both hooker Niall Scannell and flanker Tommy O'Donnell suffered head injuries inside eight minutes. Andrew Conway soon followed with a blood injury and though he returned the wing was withdrawn with what appeared to be an ankle knock.

Next up: That's all folks, in more ways than one. Munster close the book on a poor season and look forward to the opening chapter of a new story as Anthony Foley relinquishes the reins and ushers in the reign of Johan “Rassie” Erasmus as the province's first director of rugby.

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