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Guinness Pro 12: Munster 21 – 30 Llanelli Scarlet

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Scarlets win at Thomond Park

Munster finally punished for inaccuracies with a loss

Let us be quite frank. Munster inaccuracies has being present in recent weeks. Tough road wins at Edinburgh and Ospreys may have masked glaring precision and game management decisions but last Friday evening, Llanelli Scarlets punished sloppy Munster work for a deserved win. It was a very Jekyll and Hyde performance from Munster; a dominant opening first half where three fluent tries were scored off quick ruck ball from Taute, Sweetnam and Oliver indicated a potentially easy night’s work but the lack of defensive organization, missed tackles in the second half gave Scarlets a sniff and they rammed the door down with some fantastic scores of their own. The opening try was a superb kick in behind, exposing a flat footed Munster defense whose line speed in the second half was passive in nature. The second Scarlets try was a superb well worked scored, love the expansive style of play from the West Wales region. Johnny McNicol had plenty to do with the ball but his awareness of space causing hesistation in Munster’s defense was key. The third try was a Munster defensive disaster; overlap on the flank, lack of communication to fill the defensive gap left Ronan O’Mahoney in an isolated position and van der Merwe was never going to miss from close range. Munster can have no complaints; this result was coming in recent weeks and it is a good reality check for the province ahead of the Toulouse ERC fixture.

Munster youngsters impress; seasoned pros do not

This was a fixture where the video analysis for Munster was a potentially mixed message. The new Munster players in Goggin, Oliver continue to revel in the first team and their performances in the first half showed incredible promise. This was the highlight as more seasoned players in the squad failed to produce the required performance. Duncan Williams had a night to forget particularly in the second half. When game management was required playing against the breeze, Williams failed to assert authority and his slow distribution allowed Scarlets the time to regroup defensively. Bleyendaal had a mixed night defensively. His channel was pinpointed at times and like Williams failed to provide game management to quell the constant Scarlets second half onslaught. O’Mahoney on the wing endured a torrid night; a night where several game management decisions went wrong and was left high and dry for the third Scarlets try. Dave Foley’s performances for Munster this season have being disappointing; looks a pale shadow of the player which emerged to the squad a couple of seasons ago. The depth chart at second row is competitive and Foley needed a good game to get into the thoughts of Munster management ahead of the business end of the season. The performance was flat, lineout was hit and miss and little impact from open play. Foley will struggle for game time for the remainder of the season on the back of this performance. Is the player fully fit? I have my doubts.

Blessing in-disguise?

I think the loss is a great reminder to the Munster team that their accuracy and intensity levels have to be better for the full eighty minutes. It is much better to get this reminder now than wait until April 1st to see this performance. The loss exposed some defensive communication breakdown. Saili was erratic in his defensive plays; coming out of the line and isolating colleagues defensively in the process. Saili was an experienced player in the Munster lineup and some of his decision making really let down his side. Saili needs to get back to basics; communication, game management, hit first tackles. The side’s precision was not good enough. The number of forward passes, lineout breakdowns were glaring. Erasmus and management need to address the basics this week in the training paddock. This level of performance was unacceptable; the players will realize that and it is a test for the fringe squad members ahead of a trip to Cardiff.

Scarlets – Most improved side in Pro 12 this season

Llanelli Scarlets form since the start of the calendar year has being excellent. Their performance in ERC competition with a famous victory over Toulon and should have beaten Saracens have being the springboard. Their win against Glasgow last week was due warning to Munster and this result and victory at Thomond Park should come as no shock. Their front five has improved but it is their ball skills and expansive style out wide which has caught the eye. Scarlets are in the top four of the league; they can look to push on now and with renewed confidence will be a threat to anyone above them in the playoffs. The only thing that could jeopardize their campaign is injuries. Their second half was extremely impressive; excellent ball retention and their ability to identify Munster defensive gaps was superb. The tries scored were well constructed. Well done Scarlets.

Pro 12 has got interesting / Officiating remains an issue

We have a league, ladies and gentlemen. Munster are off the top of the table. Leinster are now on the summit with the Ospreys breathing down their throats. It is a pivotal couple of weeks for the chasing pack. Glasgow’s loss to the Ospreys means that they are looking for favors from others to get back into the playoff race. It looks like five teams looking for four spots. Leinster look good. Munster need to steady the ship with a win against Cardiff. Ospreys will look to keep pressure and their try scoring exploits should see them secure playoff rugby. The battle is for the fourth spot. Scarlets look favorite but Ulster have a nice schedule of games coming up. It makes for compelling viewing. Pro 12 league has got interesting but the officiating is letting down the season. The officiating at Thomond Park bordered on ridiculous at times. Business end of the season now and officiating is a toss-up. No consistency; offside rule has being ditched. Linesmen not awarding correct decisions. Where do you go?