MUNSTER secured their place in next season’s Champions Cup after scoring a hard-earned 31-15 bonus point victory over the Scarlets in the Guinness Pro12 at Thomond Park on Saturday.
Anthony Foley’s charges secured a precious sixth-placed finish, when easing past the Welsh region with five tries from Rory Scannell, two, Francis Saili, Ronan O’’Mahony and Man of the Match CJ Stander.
Munster chiefs believe Champions Cup qualification will be worth €500,000 in additional gate receipts to the province’s coffers next season.
This is just the fourth time in 14 seasons that Munster has failed to make the knock-out stages of the Pro12. Ireland’s three remaining representatives in the competition have qualified for the semi-finals.
While there were 18,929 tickets sold for the Thomond Park tie, the actual attendance inside the match venue was closer to 12,000.
The wind-assisted Scarlets took a deserved 10th minute lead through out-half Steve Shingler when he landed a penalty goal.
Against the run of play, Munster went in front when centre Francis Saili created and scored a fine try, which also featured a terrific break from winger Keith Earls.
Holland’s conversion made it 7-3 to the home side. However, the advantage was cut to a single point when Shingler landed a second penalty goal soon after.
The see-saw nature of the scoring continued when centre Rory Scannell barged over for the home side’s second try in the 23rd minute from close range.
Holland’s conversion made it 14-6 before two further Shingler penalties cut Munster’s advantage to two points at half-time.
Munster managed three tries in the second period through replacement O’Mahony after an hour, captain Stander and finally from centre Scannell late on.
SCORERS: Munster: Rory Scannell two tries, Francis Saili, Ronan O’Mahony, CJ Stander try each, Johnny Holland three cons. Scarlets: Steve Shingler five pens.
MUNSTER: Simon Zebo; Andrew Conway, Francis Saili, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Johnny Holland, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer, Dave Foley, Billy Holland, Dave O'Callaghan, Tommy O'Donnell, CJ Stander (capt). Replacements: Mike Sherry, James Cronin, John Ryan, Robin Copeland, Jack O'Donoghue, Duncan Williams, Ian Keatley, Ronan O'Mahony.
SCARLETS: Liam Williams; Gareth Owen, Steff Hughes, Hadeigh Parkes, Steff Evans; Steve Shingler, Aled Davies; Rob Evans, Ken Owens (capt), Peter Edwards, Jake Ball, David Bulbring, Lewis Rawlins, James Davies, John Barclay. Replacements: Ryan Elias, Dylan Evans, Rhodri Jones, Tom Price, Morgan Allen, Gareth Davies, Aled Thomas, Michael Tagicakibau.
REFEREE: Nigel Owens (Wales)