Munster lose ground in RaboDirect

Munster have slipped to fifth place in the RaboDirect PRO12 following their 13-6 loss to the Scarlets in Musgrave Park on Sunday night.

Munster have slipped to fifth place in the RaboDirect PRO12 following their 13-6 loss to the Scarlets in Musgrave Park on Sunday night.

MUNSTER’S 15-game unbeaten run against the Scarlets came to an abrupt halt when the Welsh region enjoyed a deserved win in their RaboDirect PRO12 tie which was played in filthy wet conditions at Musgrave Park last night.

Andy Fenby’s late try secured Scarlets’ first-ever win at the Cork venue and a first PRO12 win over Munster for five years.

This disappointing defeat sees Munster slip to fifth in the PRO12 table, two points off fourth-placed Leinster, who occupy the final play-off spot.

Next up for Munster is this Saturday’s crucial visit of the third-placed Glasgow Warriors to Thomond Park (7.45pm), before attention turns to the critical back-to-back Heineken Cup fixtures with the Saracens.

Munster could have no complaints about their defeat to the Scarlets, who played smarter rugby in the wet conditions. The Welsh side held a distinct advantage in the scrum, even after Munster had introduced BJ Botha as a replacement early in the second half.

With just ten minutes remaining, Scarlets held a narrow 6-3 advantage, Aled Thomas kicking two penalties to Ian Keatley’s one for the hosts.

But when Munster turned over possession cheaply in midfield and the otherwise excellent Felix Jones was unable to gain clean possession after the ball was fly-kicked ahead in the wet conditions, Scarlets wing Fenby was quick to pounce for the game-clinching try.

Replacement JJ Hanrahan did, at least, manage to secure a losing bonus for the home side, landing a difficult penalty with the final kick of the game into a strong wind and driving rain.

The Munster management team will hope that the unfortunate neck injury picked up by Niall Ronan on his return from a lengthy lay-off will not prove serious. Ronan was stretchered off on 37 minutes after Scarlets lock Jake Ball charged in to clear out a ruck and collided with the 30-year-old’s head.

Ronan was replaced by CJ Stander, the highly rated South African back-row forward who was making his debut for the province.

Out-half Ian Keatley opened the scoring for the home side with a successful penalty after good early pressure on 22 minutes. However just before half an hour, his opposite number Aled Thomas leveled the scores 3-3 at half-time.

Munster ended the first half in ascendancy, with the Scarlets defending desperately right before the interval as Stander was adjudged to have been held up by the television match official.

The wind-assisted Scarlets took the lead on 68 minutes as Thomas finally landed his second penalty, his kick going over after striking the left upright.

Fenby’s opportunist try helped the Scarlets pull 13-3 in front in the worsening playing conditions, but Hanrahan at least rescued a losing bonus point for the home side late on.

SCORERS – Munster 6: (Ian Keatley, JJ Hanrahan pen each) Scarlets 13: Andy Fenby try, Aled Thomas two pens, one con)

MUNSTER – Felix Jones; Doug Howlett (capt), Casey Laulala, James Downey, Luke O’Dea; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; Wian du Preez, Mike Sherry, Stephen Archer, Ian Nagle, Billy Holland, David O’Callaghan, Niall Ronan, Paddy Butler. Replacements: CJ Stander for Ronan (injured, 37 mins), BJ Botha for Archer (44 mins), Damien Varley for Sherry (65 mins), Marcus Horan for du Preez (66 mins), JJ Hanrahan for Keatley, Dave Foley for Nagle (both 72 mins), Peter Stringer for Williams (73 mins), Denis Hurley for O’Dea (74 mins).

SCARLETS – Morgan Stoddart; Nick Reynolds, Gareth Maule, Gareth Owen, Andy Fenby; Aled Thomas, Gareth Davies; Phil John, Emyr Phillips, Jacobie Adriaanse, Jake Ball, Richard Kelly, George Earle, Johnathan Edwards (capt), Craig Price. Replacements: Daniel Thomas for Edwards (45 mins), Samson Lee for Adriaanse (53 mins), Dan Newton for Stoddart (57 mins), Johan Snyman for Earle (63 mins), Sun Hopkins for John (74 mins), Kirby Myhilll for Phillips, Rhodri Williams for Davies (both 75 mins), Adam Warren for Owen (76 mins).

REFEREE – Laurent Cardona (France)