Scarlets Hit Munster With Stradey Magic
30th January 2005 By Munster Rugby
The Scarlets played with a real edge and threw the kitchen sink at the visitors. When they push the passion button, there isn’t a side that can match them. – Wales on Sunday
The Scarlets notched up a vital win in the race for a place in next season’s Heineken Cup with this brutal victory over Munster. The reigning Celtic League champions produced their best performance of the season so far to pull away from the Blues as the battle for a place in Europe hots up.
Scarlets supremo Gareth Jenkins would have been purring after a display full of courage ended a three-match losing streak for his side. His side were well worth this victory and it could be the crucial win that turns their campaign around.
They scored four tries to record the vital bonus point and, in the process, did their arch-rivals, the Ospreys, a massive favour with a win over second-placed Munster.
Nobody should underestimate how good a win this was for the Scarlets. Munster are Heineken Cup quarter-finalists, still one of the powerhouses of Europe and this was only their second defeat in 17 games. After the season they have had, you wouldn’t have given the Scarlets a chance against a Munster side full of internationals, especially with the hosts being without Dwayne Peel and Dafydd Jones.
The Welsh management had requested that players likely to play against England were withdrawn from this game. Coach Mike Ruddock did allow hooker McBryde to play to see whether the Wales veteran is ready to face England at the Millennium Stadium.
With Peel missing, Mike Phillips was given a chance to show what he can do at scrum-half against Irish star Peter Stringer. The Scarlets’ scrum-half certainly took his chance and the pair enjoyed a rare old battle.
The Scarlets tore into the Irish side and were right into the faces of Munster, really roughing them up. Jenkins had obviously decided that a performance of controlled fury was the order of the day. And, in the first half, it worked. The Scarlets played with a real edge and threw the kitchen sink at the visitors. When they push the passion button, there isn’t a side that can match them. It has been the one thing missing from most of their performances this season.
Bowen gave the Scarlets an early lead with a penalty, but moments later Munster gave a glimpse of what they can do when they want to. Shaun Payne, the former Swansea wing, sliced through the home side’s defence. Christian Cullen was in support, but only a superb last-ditch tackle by Tal Selley on the former All Black stopped a certain try. The Scarlets cleared their lines and breathed a sigh of relief.
But it didn’t take long for the Munstermen to cross the home line, scrum-half Stringer crashing over from short-range after a well-controlled driving lineout. O’Gara added the conversion to give Munster a 7-3 lead midway through the first half.
The Scarlets responded with real passion and some swift handling and a half-break by veteran prop John Davies set up the position for Phillips to put centre Matthew Watkins in at the left-hand corner for a well-worked try. Bowen missed the conversion, but the Scarlets were back in the lead.
O’Gara added a penalty for Munster to take the lead before flanker Gavin Thomas broke the visitors’ defence to put No 8 Andy Powell in the clear. The former Newport backrower raced in for the Scarlets’ second try, and Bowen added the conversion to give them a 15-10 lead at the break.
Alan Quinlan and Aisea Havili swapped tries at the start of the second half, before Chris Wyatt broke Munster’s hearts with a breathtaking solo effort.
The former Wales lock latched onto an O’Gara pass and raced away from deep in his own half, leaving Cullen trailing in his wake, to score one of the solo tries of the season.
It appears there is life at Stradey, after all.