The Test veteran would have hoped to make a clear statement of intent ahead of selection to face Scotland at Murrayfield on Sunday following the loss of Jonathan Sexton. However, even the best-laid plans can go awry in rugby.
O’Gara twice missed goal inside the opening six minutes, scuffed a third from in front of the posts in the second half and, after his injury-time conversion was rendered meaningless, he departed bloodied with a gash to the back of his head heavily bandaged.
The trio of misses are unlikely to have hurt his selection chances as much as they damaged Munster’s chances at Parc Y Scarlets, where, ultimately, they proved the difference between the teams.
Munster captain Mike Sherry said: “He [O’Gara] has won plenty of games for us with his kicks and this won’t affect him for next week, he will be fine. He missed one or two kicks, but that is the way it goes, we can’t just rely on him to win games for us.
“He will be disappointed, but he will turn up for training next week and there will be no issues there. He was brilliant all week. It was a first for me to captain the side and both he and Donncha O’Callaghan really helped me. I was very grateful to have them back from Ireland as well as the other lads. It just didn’t go our way.”
Matters rarely went Munster’s way from the moment O’Gara failed to connect cleanly with his first attempt in the second minute. There were flashes but all too few and Denis Hurley’s injury-time try was simply too late as Rob Penney’s men suffered their first double defeat to Scarlets in the tournament’s history following the 13-6 loss to the Welsh region at Musgrave Park last November.
Sherry said: “We gave their kicker [Owen Williams] too many opportunities through ill-discipline and a bit of back-chat to the referee which is disappointing.
“I thought we dominated the set-piece, our scrum and line-out went very well, but for all the dominance we had I don’t think we did much off it. It was very disappointing.”
A second defeat in three games has left Munster in sixth place as the race towards the Pro12 play-offs enters the final straight.
Munster are only five points off the Scarlets, who leapfrogged the Ospreys into fourth with this win, but are now playing catch-up.
Sherry added: “It leaves us in a tricky position in the league, but there is still plenty of rugby to play and teams above us to play as well.
“It is too early to tell if failing to get a bonus-point here will be crucial. We have Treviso next which has been a tough place for us to go in recent years so we won’t take that lightly.”
Scorers for Scarlets: Pens: O Williams 5. DG: O Williams.
Scorers for Munster: Try: D Hurley. Con: R O’Gara. Pen: R O’Gara.
SCARLETS: G Owen (N Reynolds 50), L Williams, G Maule, A Warren, A Fenby; O Williams, A Davies (G Davies 68); P John (R Jones 68), E Phillips (K Myhill 74), J Adriaanse (S Lee 60), G Earle (J Ball 68), J Synman, R McCusker (capt), J Turnbull, K Murphy (J Edwards 68).
MUNSTER: I Keatley; D Hurley, I Dineen (C Laulala 50), JJ Hanrahan, J Murphy; R O’Gara, D Williams (C Sheridan 68); W du Preez (J Ryan 75), M Sherry (capt), BJ Botha (S Archer 69); D O’Callaghan (B Holland 69), I Nagle; CJ Stander (S Dougall 59), T O’Donnell, P Butler
Referee: Dudley Phillips (IRFU).