Mixed bag from Munster in draw with Scarlets

Scarlets 25 Munster 25: How Anthony Foley judges this result at Scarlets depends on whether he believes the glass is half-full or half-empty.

Mixed bag from Munster in draw with Scarlets

In public, the positive-minded Munster head coach will insist it is the former, but in private, he will turn the focus as though it is the latter.

Parc Y Scarlets has not been a happy hunting ground for Munster, so two points is an improvement. Given how the second half swayed one way and then the other, it could have been better for Munster, but it could have been far worse.

Jack O’Donoghue’s try handed them a lead they thoroughly deserved but it took a barnstorming final eight minutes to avoid finishing empty-handed yet again in west Wales as tries from Felix Jones and then JJ Hanrahan enabled Ian Keatley to equalise with the final kick of the game. Foley remained philosophical.

“We’re happy to come away from Parc Y Scarlets with something because we didn’t the previous two years. We’re happy to get out of the situation we were in,” he said.

“We got into the lead and then in the next five minutes we were nine points down, that was followed by a scrum penalty. From being in a position of dominance, we were suddenly looking at not even getting a bonus point.

“It would have been easy for the guys to drop their heads and accept the loss but they dug deep and managed to get two tries that got a result. There were a lot of young guys out there but they all kept trying and believing.

“It’s not ideal when you’re 12 points down with time running out so if someone told you with five minutes left you would get two points, then you would take it.”

They could have briefly taken top spot with victory but at least two points ensured Munster did not lose ground on their rivals for the play-offs.

“There are five teams who keep jumping over each other every week but it’s important we are not the ones to miss out on the play-offs. There are some big games yet to come, starting with Glasgow and then Ospreys next,” said Foley.

If Munster are take anything from those games, then Foley must sharpen his players’ minds. Neither Glasgow nor Ospreys will allow them anything like the remarkable 70% possession they enjoyed in the first half alone at Scarlets. More remarkable still was that Munster had just six points and a yellow card to show for it.

“We need to look at a few things, like getting out of our own half. We weren’t good enough at that, and allowed Scarlets build pressure in our 22,” said Foley. “Our discipline didn’t hold up under that and they kicked their points. So it wasn’t good management of the game and needs addressing.”

Munster allowed Steve Shingler to kick six penalties — 18 points — that was ultimately enough to undo their own three tries.

Williams was reckless placing his foot into the mid-rift of prone Scarlets wing Harry Robinson which Foley, the robust former back row, would argue he was entitled to do. Bring back the good old days of rucking, he believes.

“I don’t know where he [Williams] was supposed to put his foot if you can’t put it there. Why wasn’t it a penalty for the lad not rolling away?” pressed Foley.

“Duncan came in a little recklessly to heighten the situation but there was no real weight to it. When I played that was the least of your worries, if you were on the wrong side of a ruck. People didn’t stay there long so perhaps we should bring back rucking because players hanging around on the wrong side is slowing the game.”

Munster also suffered another modern trend: concussions. Ireland flanker Tommy O’Donnell and his replacement Paddy Butler both failed concussion protocol tests following knocks, as did Scarlets Joe Snyman early on.

“It was a blow to lose Tommy and Paddy but it’s great to have players able to come on and step up. Jack O’Donoghue came on and continued his good form from last week.”

SCARLETS: J Williams; H Robinson, R King (R Priestland, HT), H Parkes, M Tagicakibau; S Shingler (A Warren, 75), A Davies (G Davies, HT); P John (R Evans, HT), K Owens (capt), P Edwards (J Adriaanse, 75), L Rawlins, J Snyman (G Earle, 10), A Shingler, J Davies, J Barclay (R McCusker, 75)

Sin Bin J Earle (74)

MUNSTER: F Jones; A Conway, K Earls, D Hurley (capt), L O’Dea (JJ Hanrahan, 55); I Keatley, D Williams; D Kilcoyne, K O’Byrne (E Guinazu, 48), S Archer (BJ Botha, 48), D O’Callaghan, B Holland, T O’Donnell (P Butler, 37, J O’Donoghue, 48), CJ Stander.

Sin Bin: D Williams (39)

Referee: Dudley Phillips (Ireland).

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