Van Graan frustrated as Munster left to rue missed opportunities

Johann van Graan’s glass remained half-full as he argued Munster are still very much in Guinness PRO14 title contention despite defeat to the Scarlets in Llanelli.

Van Graan frustrated as Munster left to rue missed opportunities

Parc y Scarlets

[team1]Scarlets[/team1][score1]10[/score1][team2]Munster[/team2][score2]6[/score2][/score]

Johann van Graan’s glass remained half-full as he argued Munster are still very much in Guinness PRO14 title contention despite defeat to the Scarlets in Llanelli. This narrow reversal in the pouring rain means Van Graan’s men fell off the top of Conference A to be leapfrogged by Glasgow Warriors. Munster had dominance of possession and territory, especially in the first-half, yet they couldn’t convert their pressure into points.

All they had to show for their efforts were two Bill Johnston penalties. The Scarlets tackled themselves into the ground with No 8 Uzair Cassiem making 30 on his own. Munster repeatedly smashed away in search of a try and time after time they went close to the line through their powerful forwards.

On each occasion, though they either spilled the ball due to a combination of the poor conditions and handling errors — or were repelled by excellent home tackling.

“The conditions were very tough. I thought we did such a lot of good stuff in that game and it’s very frustrating not to score those tries,” Van Graan said. “We were literally half a metre away twice and also had a disallowed try. They were big moments in the game, but all credit to the Scarlets and their defence. They defended very well and their try was also a call by the TMO but a brilliant offload. That was the difference in the game.

We did enough to win it, but credit to the Scarlets. We are still in a brilliant place.

“We want to win every single game we play, but to come to Wales two weeks in a row, in difficult conditions, is very tough. We managed to pull off a win against the Ospreys last week and this time we were one decision away from making it two in a row. We’ve got a confident group and the internationals will come back now for the game with Zebre after the Six Nations and then it’s a European Cup quarter-final with Edinburgh.The guys are disappointed here because we felt we did enough to win the game. We just need to learn to finish off our opportunities.”

Munster trailed 7-6 at the break and failed to score another point.

Johnston opened the scoring, but the Scarlets responded when the outstanding Leigh Halfpenny collected a high ball, ran it back, and from there Johnny McNicholl’s outstanding offload sent his fellow wing Ioan Nicholas over to score.

Halfpenny converted via the upright. Johnston did kick another penalty, but Munster couldn’t make the most of their utter dominance of territory and possession.

In the second period, Halfpenny kicked a penalty, but Munster had a score ruled out when Jean Kleyn went over, but Rhys Marshall was penalised for blocking by the television match official.

“It was a difficult call. Unfortunately, it went against us and I’m not going to moan about it. The officials made a call and I respect that,” Van Graan added. “We had other opportunities to win the game and it was a close encounter in terrible conditions.”

One positive for Van Graan was a clean bill of health save for one concern over back Dan Goggin. Asked why his team couldn’t convert their chances, the Munster boss added: “It was a bit of everything. Maybe it was a little bit of over-eagerness from our side, but there was also some brilliant defence from the Scarlets and terrible conditions. It was those three things mainly.”

Scorers for Scarlets: Tries: Nicholas 11 Con: Halfpenny 13 Pen: Halfpenny 49.

Scorers for Munster: Pens: Johnston 5, 40.

SCARLETS:

Halfpenny; McNicholl (Evans 76), Fonotia, Asquith, Nicholas ; D Jones (Patchell 55), Hardy (Hidalgo-Clyne 72); W Jones (P Price 69), Elias (M Jones 69), Kruger, Helps (T Price 68), Rawlins, Macleod, Davis (Phillips 19), Cassiem.

MUNSTER:

Haley; O’Mahony, Goggin (Taute 65), Scannell, Sweetnam; Johnston (Bleyendaal 68), Mathewson (Cronin 76); Loughman (O’Connor 65), Marshall (O’Byrne 65), Ryan (Archer 60), Kleyn (O’Shea 65), Holland, Wycherley, Oliver (O’Donoghue 54), Botha.

Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU).

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