Monday 25 September 2017

O'Gara will shrug off blip – Easterby

Scarlets 18 Munster 10 Pro12 League

Ronan O'Gara has had better days than this – and Simon Easterby believes he will again next weekend at Murrayfield.

The Test veteran would have hoped to make a clear statement of intent ahead of selection to face Scotland this week following the loss of Jonathan Sexton.

However, O'Gara was overshadowed by his younger, inexperienced opposite number Owen Williams after missing three penalties, two from in front of the posts, during a comprehensive defeat which the Munster fly-half finished swathed in bandages, with a sizeable gash to the back of his head.

The missed penalties helped Scarlets clinch home-and-away wins over Munster for the first time as Williams compounded O'Gara's misery by kicking all of his side's 18 points.

However, Scarlets head coach Easterby, who won the vast majority of his 65 caps for Ireland between 2000 and 2008 alongside O'Gara, tipped his former team-mate to shrug off the disappointment for Sunday's Six Nations clash.

Easterby said: "Munster had a good win against Edinburgh last week so they came here with a bit of confidence and had Rog back in the side as well, looking to get a bit of form for Ireland. Luckily he didn't bring his right kicking boots – he missed a couple and we took advantage of that.

"But he will always rise to the challenge and I am sure he will step in and take control of that position (for Ireland).

"Rog has been there, done it and that experience will be huge for Ireland over the next couple of weeks because they have lost Gordon D'Arcy as well. I'm sure Rog will step up and hopefully he will put this couple of kicks behind him and go well next week."

O'Gara had the final say at Parc y Scarlets when he converted Denis Hurley's injury-time try, though it was academic after Williams had rewarded an ambitious and adventurous Scarlets with an 18-3 lead.

Munster captain Mike Sherry, sin-binned during the second half, said: "It was a disappointing night. The Scarlets beat us in Cork so we came over here with a mission to try and reverse that.

"I thought we dominated the set-piece, our scrum and line-out went very well, but for all the dominance we had, I don't think we did much off it. We gave their kicker too many opportunities through ill-discipline and a bit of back-chat to the referee, which is disappointing."

A second defeat in three games has left Munster in sixth place as the race towards the Pro12 play-offs enters the final straight. Munster are only five points off the Scarlets, who leapfrogged the Ospreys into fourth with this win, but are now playing catch-up in the end-of-season scrap.

Sherry said: "It leaves us in a tricky position in the league, but there is still plenty of rugby to play and teams above us to play as well. There are a lot of us bunched up.

"It is too early to tell if failing to get a bonus-point here will be crucial. We didn't come here for a losing bonus-point, we came here for the win and we could have had it with a few more kicks and a bit more accuracy.

"We have Treviso next, which has been a tough place for us to go in recent years, so we won't take that lightly.

"We have Ospreys at home after that – they are just above us, so that is a huge fixture as well."

Scarlets – G Owen (N Reynolds 50); L Williams, G Maule, A Warren, A Fenby; O Williams, A Davies (G Davies 68); P John (R Jones 68), E Phillips (K Myhill 74), J Adriaanse (S Lee 60); G Earle (J Ball 68), J Synman; R McCusker (capt), J Turnbull, K Murphy (J Edwards 68).

Munster – I Keatley; D Hurley, I Dineen (C Laulala 50), JJ Hanrahan, J Murphy; R O'Gara, D Williams (C Sheridan 68); W du Preez (J Ryan 75), M Sherry (capt), BJ Botha (S Archer 69); D O'Callaghan (B Holland 69), I Nagle; CJ Stander (S Dougall 59), T O'Donnell, P Butler.

Ref – D Phillips

Irish Independent

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