Munster 16 Scarlets 10
Amazingly, Munster replicated their Heineken Cup win in Perpignan with a storming finish at Musgrave Park on Saturday night to push their run of consecutive victories out to eight and stretch the lead at the top of the RaboDirect Pro12 to six points.
Similarly though, players, coaches and fans had to endure a worrying finale against 13-man Scarlets when referee Nigel Owens referred Ronan O’Mahony’s 83rdminute try to the TMO (Dermot Moloney) for scrutiny. Happily for them once again, the decision went Munster’s way.
Scarlets coach Simon Easterby was annoyed at the awarding of the try, believing a touch judge intimated there could have been a knock-on by Munster in the build-up. However, the video evidence threw up no conclusive evidence of a mistake and, after a long deliberation, Owens decided the score was good.
“I think it is just disappointing with modern technology that if you are going to use the TMO you should be able to get a far closer picture of the potential infringement or offence,” said Easterby.
Rob Penney, though, had no doubts about the validity of the score, the Munster coach observing: “I’m sure when he (Easterby) wakes up in the morning in the cold light of day, he’ll have a different view and (know) there was nothing wrong through that sequence of play anyone could see. Obviously we’ve got the polar opposite opinions but, when you look through clinically and take emotion out of it, there was nothing in it you would say was illegal or that should have prevented the try from being awarded. All I would say is that I think the officials got it right.”
So then, from one week to another there wasn’t much different, save for the fact that Scarlets had not, like Perpignan, scored late and were merely clinging onto a 10-9 lead they held from the 56th minute.
JJ Hanrahan had missed the opportunity to put the home side ahead with a penalty in 73 minutes but then turned to hero in that dramatic late rally. A brilliant break by substitutes Duncan Williams and Barry O’Mahony pushed the Scarlets’ defence almost to breaking point, Munster won the ruck and Hanrahan’s inch-perfect cross kick was gathered by wing O’Mahony for the winning score, the outhalf superbly adding the conversion from the touchline.
Although Penney would have had to concede the crucial score was achieved against a depleted team after both Rob Evans and Mike Poole had both been sin-binned, he was delighted with the win by a much changed side.
“It wasn’t a class performance by any means but it was difficult given the weather conditions; credit to the lads, they just knuckled down and did their work and we picked up a result that we needed to pick up at this time of year.”
“Making 12 changes and then losing BJ (Botha) and Duncan (Casey) so early, it really gave us the wobbles for a while but credit to the boys, they hung in there. Niall Scannell threw to the line out well and played really well for his first run-on performance.”
“Niall would be our number four hooker if you like, and for him to come on so early and do such a sterling job was a great effort from the young fella and it was a difficult day to do it on, while I thought Killer (David Kilcoyne) was outstanding.”
The sides were level 3-3 at the interval, Aled Thomas and Hanrahan exchanging penalties, before Munster were forced to come from behind. John Barclay’s excellent 42nd minute try was converted by Thomas and, despite some promising assaults, Munster had to rely on Hanrahan to inch them to within a point before orchestrating that late smash and grab victory.
MUNSTER: D Hurley, G van den Heever, C Laulala, I Dineen, A Conway, JJ Hanrahan, C Sheridan, D Kilcoyne, D Casey, BJ Botha, I Nagle, B Holland (captain), D O’Callaghan, CJ Stander, T O’Donnell.
Replacements: N Scannell for Casey (30, injured), J Ryan for Botha (34, injured), Donncha O’Callaghan for Dave O’Callaghan (47, injured), R O’Mahony for van den Heever (57), D Williams for Sheridan (59), B O’Mahony for O’Donnell (69).
SCARLETS: G Owens, L Williams, G Maule, A Warren, K Phillips, A Thomas, R Williams, R Evans, K Owens, J Adriaanse, J Ball, R Kelly, J Turnbull, R McCusker (captain), J Barclay.
Replacements: E Phillips for Owens, R Jones for Adriaanse (both 53), J Snyman for Ball (55), R Priestland for Warren (61, injured), G Davies for Williams (69), M Poole for Maule (72), S Hopkins for Barclay (74).
Referee: N Owens (Wales).
The key moment
The chip from JJ Hanrahan allowed substitute winger Ronan O’Mahony in for a match-winning injury time try. Hanrahan’s conversion from the touchline wasn’t bad either.
Was there a knock on/or not before substitute Duncan Williams got his mitts on the ball, delivered to Hanrahan and the outhalf and winger did the rest?
Asked if his heart had been pumping a lot during the two minutes before Munster’s match winning try was awarded, coach Rob Penney said: “It (heart) blew up (in the last –gasp Heineken Cup win over Perpignan) last week.”
The main man
In a low key performance littered with mistakes it had to be Hanrahan, despite a couple of goal-kicking lapses.
Nigel Owens had a good night as usual. He had to refer Munster’s match-winning try to the TMO based on suggestion from one of his touch judges, but he was calm under pressure from players on both sides.
Connacht at Thomond Park on Friday provides the next test for Munster. It won’t be easy against a team that has gone to Toulouse and come away with full Heineken Cup points. Munster should beware!
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