A monster penalty goal from Paul Warwick, ten minutes into injury-time, handed Munster the spoils at Stradey Park on Saturday as the Llanelli Scarlets lost their grip on a 20-5 interval lead in their first game since Phil Davies’ sacking.
Munster had all of their Heineken Cup stars back for this trip to west Wales but it was one of their back-up players, Australian Paul Warwick, who emerged as their hero on the day.
The former Connacht fly-half had looked like he might be the villain of the piece when his conversion of his own 85th-minute try bounced back off the right hand upright.
However, he was afforded another shot at goal after Scarlets replacement lock Lou Reed was yellow card in the final minute of injury-time.
With time running out, Warwick had to go for the posts from a few yards inside his own half but his thumped kick had the required distance and the accuracy, dramatically handing Munster their fifth win in-a-row over the Scarlets.
Munster defied the driving wind and rain to record a 29-16 triumph at this venue in the Heineken Cup pool stages earlier in the season.
The weather was much better this time around and winger Ian Dowling, obviously in the mood to impress ahead of the province’s tangle with Toulouse, ran in an excellent opening try.
The game was five minutes’ old when Scarlets back rower Nathan Thomas coughed up possession, Munster moved the ball out to the left and Dowling did the rest, rounding his opposite number Dafydd James and scooting over from 60 metres out.
Ronan O’Gara was wayward with his conversion attempt and the Scarlets, with caretaker coach Paul Moriarty a vocal presence on the sidelines, hit back a couple of minutes later with a Stephen Jones penalty.
With a considerable wind behind them, Llanelli forced a second penalty concession from the visitors only for Jones to miss the target from halfway.
Into the second quarter, Munster lost their openside David Wallace to the sin-bin for killing the ball at a ruck and Jones made no mistake with a 23rd-minute kick.
That score began a spell of dominance for the hosts. After good possession from a scrum, Dafydd James was able to dance his way over for a try with Munster guilty of some poor tackling.
Jones’ conversion put eight points between the sides and with Munster still down to 14 men, the Scarlets stretched further clear when Matthew Watkins nabbed a seven-pointer after some more defensive lapses from the visitors, including O’Gara.
Munster shook themselves up before the break and almost got over for a try but Wallace, after a kick and chase, frustratingly knocked on with the try line in sight.
While not having played particularly well, the Scarlets still had a 20-5 lead to take into the second half and the hope was that they would go on to end a recent poor run of four defeats in five league games.
Munster roused themselves, however, with O’Gara popping over his second penalty attempt of the second half and Peter Stringer, Frankie Sheahan and Donnacha Ryan also made good impressions off the bench.
On 51 minutes, full-back Denis Hurley made best use of a gap in the Scarlets defence and he put Dowling over for his second try which O’Gara failed to convert.
Into the wind, Jones struck another penalty to boost Llanelli’s lead to 23-13, yet Warwick ensured a tense finish by chipping over a penalty just six minutes after his arrival onto the pitch.
With Paul O’Connell and company now pulling the strings, Munster pressed on and they were rewarded for their endeavour in injury-time when Warwick scored a try out wide.
His conversion attempt hit a post but Warwick held his nerve to nail his monster last-gasp penalty as the Scarlets lost successive home league games for the first time since 2005.