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Munster Back On The Winning Trail

Defending champions Munster boosted their chances of featuring in the Magners League play-offs with a hard-earned win over the Scarlets at Musgrave Park.

Jean de Villiers and James Coughlan scored a try apiece as the hosts moved 17-8 ahead for half-time, and out-half Paul Warwick maintained his 100% kicking return with two second half penalties.

Munster were made to fight all the way for the points, though, as the spirited Scarlets, with number 10 Rhys Priestland scoring a try and four penalties, fought back to claim a losing bonus point in this refixed clash.

A late surge from winger Andy Fenby saw Munster forced back towards their 22 and the Scarlets deserved more as the attack petered out without what they felt was a certain penalty.

The Welshmen got off to a whirlwind start when Priestland charged down a kick from his opposite number Warwick and showed a very good turn of pace to get over in the right corner.

Munster recovered well and made the hard yards through their forwards, with team captain Mick O’Driscoll to the fore in a lineout drive, before South African centre de Villiers edged past Jonathan Davies to score from close range.

Warwick’s successful conversion put Munster 7-5 up, but with number 8 Coughlan failing to gather the restart, the Scarlets were straight back on the attack with Richie Pugh stopped just metres out.

Nigel Davies’ men held the edge in terms of possession and territory in an error-strewn first half, with some strong carries from inspirational skipper David Lyons and good individual play from Davies and Josh Turnbull.

Priestland slotted his second penalty, six minutes before the break, to nose the visitors back in front – however, their lead was a short-lived one.

Their tighthead prop Deacon Manu was sin-binned for pulling Nick Williams back as Munster threatened near the Scarlets’ 22.

Crucially, Tony McGahan’s side used the extra man to string together their best attacking phase and Billy Holland and Doug Howlett kept them on the front foot, before Coughlan plunged over for a seven-pointer.

The second half ebbed and flowed as the place-kickers traded blows – two Priestland successes, sandwiching a Warwick kick, reduced the arrears for the Scarlets to 20-14.

With defences on top, the place-kicks were becoming increasingly vital and Warwick, from a tough angle on the right, landed what proved to be the match-winning kick in the 65th minute.

Munster went through the phases as they went in search of a try to seal it, but their accuracy was not at the required level, despite the best efforts of O’Driscoll, Ian Dowling and Niall Ronan.

The Scarlets mustered a final rally, helped by Tommy O’Donnell’s sin-binning for slowing up ruck ball.

Priestland completed his 17-point tally but there was no further reward for Lyons and company as Munster got the win required to push them back into the play-off zone.

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