MUNSTER’S 35-12 bonus point victory over Scarlets in rain drenched Musgrave Park sent the title holders to the top of RaboDirect PRO12 League table.
And although the visitors started brightly and opened the scoring with a Dan Newton penalty in the 2nd minute, Munster assumed control of this game soon after and never looked like ceding that control.
Besides the obvious plus of the bonus, it was the third successive game they prevented the opposition scoring a try, closest Scarlets came was early on when Johne Murphy needed to be short to touchdown ahead of Dale Ford following up his own kick ahead.
There was also a return to action for BJ Botha who came on as a 54th minute replacement for John Hayes, an impressive display from Dave Foley, a robust leadership from Peter O’Mahony and a Man of the Match performance from Ian Keatley who ended the night with a 15 point haul and all round assured performance.
Out-half Newton kicked Scarlets in front after two minutes before turnover ball on half way gave us the first glimpse of the threat posed by Doug Howlett who was sent clear down the right by Murphy before being bundled into touch.
Keatley leveled in the eight minute and six minutes later Howlett would not be denied again after the Scarlets had turned the ball over and O’Mahony displayed soft hands to deliver the scoring pass although Howlett still had a long way to go.
Keatley landed the conversion and a 21st minute penalty before Munster’s total dominance at the set scrum yielded a penalty try, Keatley’s tap-over pushing Munster into a 20-9 lead.
Scarlets had the last say of the half with a massive penalty from young full-back Dale Ford to leave Scarlets eleven points adrift at the interval.
Munster’s lead was reduced further when Newton landed a 48th minute penalty at which stage Munster had taken their foot off the pedal but their defensive line remained in good nick and once they’d weathered something of a third quarter Scarlet revival, they pushed on for the bonus win.
Duncan Williams, on for Stringer in the 59th minute, scored their third with a great snipe off a close-in lineout and another replacement Tommy O’Donnell showed good pace and no little amount of determination to score their fourth with six minutes left to run.
Munster currently enjoy a one-point lead over two sides who also retain 100% records after three series of games, ULster and the Ospreys.
MUNSTER - J Murphy; D Howlett (S Zebo 71 min), T Gleeson, L Mafi (S Deasy 66 min), D Hurley; I Keatley, P Stringer (D Williams 59 min); M Horan (du Preez 50 min), M Sherry (D Fogarty 66 min), J Hayes (BJ Botha 54 min); D Foley (B Holland 45 min), M O’Driscoll; P O’Mahony (c), N Ronan (T O’Donnell 65 min), J Coughlan.
SCARLETS - D Ford; L Williams, R Gomer Davies, G Maule, A Fenby; D Newton, R Tipuna; I Thomas (c), K Myhill, R Thomas, L Reed, D Day, R McCusker, J Turnbull, B Morgan. Replacements: E Phillips, P John, R Jones, A Shingler, J Edwards, G Davies, A Thomas, L Rees.
REFEREE - A Macpherson (SRU).