Saturday 24 September 2016

Erasmus joy as Munster hint at bright future

Scarlets 13 Munster 23

Andrew Gwilym

Published 04/09/2016 | 02:30

Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Rassie Erasmus enjoyed a dream start to his tenure as Munster director of rugby as his depleted troops saw off a star-studded Scarlets side in west Wales.

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First-half tries from prop James Cronin and wing Ronan O'Mahony did the damage, with Tyler Bleyendaal and Ian Keatley kicking the rest of Munster's points.

Munster's Ronan O'Mahony sprints to the try line. Photo: Huw Evans/Sportsfile
Munster's Ronan O'Mahony sprints to the try line. Photo: Huw Evans/Sportsfile

The visitors even overcame the early loss of Simon Zebo to a rib injury as an opportunistic Gareth Davies try and eight points from the boot of Rhys Patchell were not enough for the Scarlets.

The opening day win was just the shot in the arm Munster needed after the travails of last season.

They have barely been mentioned as genuine title contenders but, while there is an awfully long way to go, knocking over a fancied Scarlets team in their own backyard will not go unnoticed by their Guinness Pro12 rivals.

It was not pretty but the spirit shown in weathering an early Scarlets storm - with outstanding man of the match Tommy O'Donnell leading from the front - was exemplary and defence coach Jacques Nienaber would have been impressed.

Munster's Dave Foley is tackled by Scarlets' Hadleigh Parkes. Photo: Huw Evans/Sportsfile
Munster's Dave Foley is tackled by Scarlets' Hadleigh Parkes. Photo: Huw Evans/Sportsfile

With Liam Williams causing all manner of problems during the opening exchanges the hosts were a real handful but Munster stood firm, took the blows and then landed some of their own.

Moments after Zebo had departed the fray - to be replaced by Keatley - Munster enjoyed their first foray deep into Scarlets territory and made it pay.

Dave Foley made big ground in midfield and Cronin was bundled over the line from close range, with Bleyendaal converting.

Patchell replied with a penalty but on the half-hour the Welsh side fell further adrift.

Munster's Tyler Bleyendaal kicks a conversion. Photo: Huw Evans/Sportsfile
Munster's Tyler Bleyendaal kicks a conversion. Photo: Huw Evans/Sportsfile

There appeared little on as O'Mahony followed in towards a midfield ruck, but the Scarlets' failure to post a guard saw the winger burst through the middle to go all the way.

However, Munster suffered a defensive lapse of their own just a few minutes later. Wales scrum-half Davies took a quick tap on his own 10-metre line, outpaced the nearest defenders and grubbered past Keatley to dot down.

That had the hosts back to within four points, with the respective fly-halves then exchanging penalties either side of the break, but that was as close as they got.

Scarlets' frustrations began to get the better of them, particularly after failing to capitalise on stealing a Munster line-out within the visiting 22, and penalties followed.

A failure to heed a warning to get hands out at the breakdown allowed Bleyendaal to open the gap to seven points.

And when lock Lewis Rawlins used a swinging arm on a prostrate Munster player, Keatley stepped up to put the game beyond reach.

"That was a very pleasing start, Munster have not won here for a few years so it is great to get that on the board," Erasmus said.

"There are plenty of things to work to do, we know that was not the perfect performance but the guys dug in really well and we took our tries well and showed some good physicality."

Scorers - Scarlets: G Davies try, R Patchell 2 pens, con. Munster: J Cronin, R O'Mahony tries, T Bleyendaal 2 pens, 2 cons, I Keatley pen.

Scarlets: L Williams (J Davies 49); DTH van der Merwe (D Jones 74), S Williams (L Williams 58), H Parkes, S Evans; R Patchell, G Davies (J Evans 74); D Evans (W Evans 66), K Owens © (R Elias 77), W Kruger (P Edwards 66), J Ball (D Bulbring 66), L Rawlins, A Shingler (T Beirne 63), J Barclay, J MacLeod.

Munster: S Zebo (I Keatley 18); D Sweetnam, D Goggin, R Scannell, R O'Mahony; T Bleyendaal (C Bohane 66), D Williams (T O'Leary 63); J Cronin (D Kilcoyne 56), N Scannell (K O'Byrne 77), J Ryan (B Scott 77), D Foley, (D Ryan 50) B Holland ©, D O'Callaghan, T O'Donnell, J O'Donoghue.

Referee: L Linton (Scotland)

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