Thomond finally breached

Munster12 Llanelli19

Munster's unbeaten competitive record at the famous ground was finally shattered albeit without the vast experience of their seasoned internationals and coach Alan Gaffney was less perturbed about the record than the actual performance.

"The record on this ground has been hyped up. We weren't even close to full strength with so many players out of the equation but, having said that, we didn't compete well enough in the lineouts and, for much of the game, didn't get beyond the first phase.

"We came into the game in the last 20 minutes but didn't really do anything near like enough to earn a win. Llanelli were the better team and fully deserved their win."

Munster will certainly have to look at their line out options in the absence of Donnacha O'Callaghan and Paul O'Connell, and it didn't help that the calls appeared to be well short of requirements.

All credit to Llanelli for the way they responded to the early concession of points. Munster took the lead on their second scoring opportunity six minutes into the game. Jeremy Staunton missed an early long-range penalty but made no mistake from closer range at the second time of asking.

The champions did not, however, have things all their own way and had to defend with considerable application in the following minutes. Llanelli were over the line but held up in the eighth minute and then conceded a penalty when blocking the Munster defenders seconds later.

Munster's defence had to be good and it was, with Mike Mullins forcing one huge turnover and Simon Kerr another closer in.

Most of the opening quarter was played in Munster territory and Llanelli clawed their way back into the game when Gareth Bowen kicked a close-range penalty, all after Munster failed to make proper use of possession in midfield from which the visitors launched a telling counter-attack.

Seconds later, Staunton was back in action at the half way line; he knocked over a beauty from over 50m to give Munster a flattering 6-3 lead.

Even though Munster were awarded another penalty just afterwards, it seemed fair enough that Staunton should miss the opportunity to increase the lead, even as a result of Boobyer being shown the yellow card for a professional foul.

Llanelli were happy with their first half performance, especially after Boobyer's departure for 10 minutes. Munster were unable to take advantage of the numerical advantage and had to be happy with their three point advantage at the break.

Bowen levelled matters inside 90 seconds of the second half with a drop goal that went in via an upright but then launched an appalling kick that lost his side metres of ground. Still, it didn't seem to matter. Munster continued to struggle out of touch even after the departure of John Davies (yellow card) and the score was settled when Denis Leamy took the same path for another professional foul. Bowen kicked the simple penalty to punish Munster and give the visitors the lead for the first time. On the run of play, it was no more than they deserved.

Staunton brought Munster back to parity with a superb penalty in the last seconds of the third quarter but Llanelli still found reserves of strength to keep the pressure on. They got an important try after 65 minutes when Bowen charged down an attempted clearance and got the right bounce to score a try which he converted himself. Munster won a subsequent penalty and Staunton brought it all back to four points.

Seconds later he missed a further opportunity and Llanelli took heart from that. Munster threw everything into trying to salvage the game but a try appeared beyond them. They just ended up with too little quality possession and after turning over possession yet again in a desperate bid to save the match, they conceded another penalty with Man of the Match Bowen sealing their fate right at the end.

MUNSTER. J. Staunton, M. Lawlor, M. Mullins, J. Jones-Hughes, S. Payne, K. Keane, E. Reddan, S. Kerr, J. Flannery, M. Cahill, T. Hogan, E. Halvey, D. Leamy, J. Williams (captain), D. Wallace. Replacements. A Long for Flannery (50), D. Sheehan for Leamy (65), J. Danaher for Cahill (78).

LLANELLI. B. Davies, L.Byrne, M. Watkins, L. Davies (captain), T. Selley, G. Bowen, M. Phillips, D. Maddocks, A. Gravelle, J. Davies, A. Jones, C. Wyatt, E. Lewis, S. Quinnell, I. Boobyer. Replacements. N. Williams for Lewis (52-60), V. Cooper for Lewis (60), D. Burn for Phillips (62), B. Griffiths for Quinnell (79).

Referee. G. Davies (Scotland).

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