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Scarlets’ Go Down To Munster

Scarlets’ Go Down To Munster


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Leeds Tykes beat Leicester Tigers, Llanelli defeated Leeds and Munster beat Llanelli. So maybe we’re finally looking at a Munster triumph in the Heineken Cup final.

Whatever logic you wish to apply to the first results of the competitive season in Europe as you look for a guide to form, one thing you can count on is that not much has changed at Munster.

The Cinderellas of European rugby may have lost their coach to the Irish cause, and Peter Clohessy to a pair of slippers and a pipe, but their pursuit of success and glory is all set to be as professional and relentless as ever this season.

Even though they had only been togther as a squad under new coach Alan Gaffney for five days before this daunting opening game in the Celtic League, they dug deep enough to overcome their difficulties and provide an early reminder they intend to maintain their high standards.

“They may have a new coach, be missing a few players through injury and have lost Peter Clohessy, but there isn’t much to be fixed in the Munster side. They have an ability to maintain pressure and intensity in their game,” an admiring Llanelli coach, Gareth Jenkins, said.

There were good signs, too, for the Irish coach Eddie O’Sullivan in the form shown by some of his front line tropps ahead of their World Cup qualifying campaign. Rob Henderson looked sharped than he has been since his success with the Lions in Australia, Peter Stringer and Ronan O’Gara were supreme at half-back and Anthony Foley was like a rock.

It was O’Gara who grabbed the limelight with his five penalties and pin-point cross-kick to Mossy Lawlor to set-up the match winning try, but it was the all round commitment and organisation of the Munster side that earned praise for his new charges from Gaffney.

“Munster have so much passion, they have an X-factor that I can’t quite put my finger on just yet. We were as rusty as can be, but to come to a place like Llanelli and get a win like that shows the character of the side,” said Gaffney.

“We weren’t top drawer and there is huge room for improvement. That’s what we are aiming for, but it wasn’t a bad start.”

Not bad at all. Not many teams win at Stradey Park and this was a near full-strength Llanelli side. Victory could have gone the home way and Jenkins was left ruing two terrible fumbles that cost his team certain tries.

The first came when Wayne Proctor, that most prolific and reliable of try scorers, dropped a pass from Stephen Jones five metres out with the line at his mercy. The second clanger came at the start of the second half when Llanelli’s other international wing, Mark Jones, dropped a Guy Easterby box kick that he had tracked superbly well with nobody at home ahead of him.
Jones at least grabbed a consolation try when Munster were down to 14 men with Mike Mullins in the sin-bin, but they couldn’t close the gap. Instead, they went the same way as so many other Welsh sides against Irish opposition in the Celtic League as the tally reached 21-2 with this defeat.

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