Sunday 18 March 2018

'Plenty still to prove' as Munster 'set the standard for the season'

Scarlets 13 Munster23

Ronan O'Mahony, left, celebrates with Billy Holland, right, after scoring his side's second try Photo by Huw Evans/Sportsfile
Ronan O'Mahony, left, celebrates with Billy Holland, right, after scoring his side's second try Photo by Huw Evans/Sportsfile

Andrew Gwilym

Dave Foley reckons it is too early to speak of a Munster revival despite starting the new Guinness Pro12 season with an impressive win at Parc y Scarlets.

New director of rugby Rassie Erasmus enjoyed a dream start as tries from James Cronin and Ronan O'Mahony, and the boots of Tyler Bleyendaal and Ian Keatley, sealed a first win in Llanelli in five years.

It was a victory based around an outstanding defensive effort, which nullified a strong Scarlets start and eventually suffocated a talented backline containing Liam Williams, Scott Williams and new boy Rhys Patchell.

All this came despite the early loss of Simon Zebo to a rib injury, and Munster were good value for their 10-point winning margin.

Only a typically opportunistic try by Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies, from a tap penalty, could break the Munster rearguard, while Patchell slotted eight points.

The Scarlets' strong summer of recruitment has seen them tipped to reach the play-offs, while Munster, after the struggles of last season, have largely gone under the radar.

This is a victory that will not have gone unnoticed by their Pro12 rivals. However, second-row Foley was keen to keep a lid on any euphoria and insisted the only people Munster have anything to prove to this season are themselves.

"It is no mean feat to win here, we have not won here for five years," said Foley, whose excellent running line and carry paved the way for Cronin's opener.

"They have a good backline but their pack has always been gutsy, they have a lot of internationals,"

"But I don't know if we have made a statement or anything like that. Last season we were lucky to get into Europe so we have a lot to prove to ourselves.

Dave Foley on the attack Photo: Huw Evans/Sportsfile
Dave Foley on the attack Photo: Huw Evans/Sportsfile

"We really want to push on from where we were last season. The coaching staff who have come in have really bolstered things, new voices are good and I think we are starting to get in a good place.

"The new guys are very professional, they have impressive CVs, we have a really strong team of coaches here and it puts us in good stead for the season."

A Munster win had not looked the likely outcome during the early exchanges as Scarlets enjoyed a surfeit of possession and, in full-back Liam Williams, had the outstanding back on the field.

Countless times the No 15 threatened to cut through, but Munster doggedly held out and struck with their first genuine attack as Cronin ploughed over from close range.

Patchell slotted a penalty in response, but O'Mahony was soon racing clear after spotting a gaping hole at a ruck on half-way.

The Scarlets needed a response and got it when Davies went on his own and finished superbly from his own grubber while under pressure from Jack O'Donoghue.

That cut Munster's lead to four points but that was as close as it got as Bleyendaal and Keatley sealed the win to leave Erasmus a happy man.

"When you come to a place like this you have to show guts. Even if you lose games you need that and we did that," he said.

"Defensively we showed aggression in our system and that is the golden way. That has set the standard for the season."

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 (J Kleyn 65), T O'Donnell, J O'Donoghue.

Ref - L Linton (SRU)

Irish Independent

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