Sunday 21 January 2018

JJ Hanrahan's last-gasp try saves Munster's blushes

Scarlets 25 Munster 25

Munster's Felix Jones dives over to score his side's second try of the game
Munster's Felix Jones dives over to score his side's second try of the game
Dave O'Callaghan, Munster, competes for a lineout ball with Aaron Shingler, Scarlets
Rhys Priestland, Scarlets, is tackled by Jack O'Donoghue, Munster

Matt Lloyd

A last-gasp try from JJ Hanrahan claimed a deserved share of the spoils for Munster against Scarlets in a result that will leave both sides frustrated.

Hanrahan, a second-half replacement, crossed between the posts with the final attack of the game following a powerful drive from his forwards. Ian Keatley was left with a straightforward equaliser from the conversion, the last kick of the game.

It capped a remarkable comeback as Munster scored two tries to overturn a 25-13 deficit in the final five minutes.

The result saw Munster leapfrog Leinster and stand level with Ulster, yet they will wonder just how they failed to take their chance to move to the top of the Guinness Pro12 at Parc y Scarlets.

Jack O'Donoghue scored for a second week in succession, just moments after Munster survived Duncan Williams' needless yellow card unscathed.

Ian Keatley's conversion handed Munster the lead for the first time on 54 minutes after they had utterly dominated possession up to that point.

They had been kept at bay by an outstanding defensive display from Scarlets, who combined for close to 100 tackles in the first-half alone, and that was to prove decisive.

More Scarlets' pressure forced BJ Botha into conceding a penalty that also surrendered their recently-gained lead before Aaron Shingler blocked Keatley's kick, allowing Hadleigh Parkes to kick ahead for the crucial try.

Steven Shingler converted and looked to have finished off Munster with his sixth penalty, this time from a scrum.

But Munster turned the screw and finally made their possession count. Dave Kilcoyne was denied a try by the video official, but when George Earle was binned for infringing close to his line, Keith Earls sent Felix Jones over in the corner.

Keatley missed the conversion but Munster, aided by Scarlets' tiring bodies, surged straight back up the field through their forwards before Hanrahan strolled over.

As well as missing out on two points, there was potentially more bad news for Munster and Ireland with Tommy O'Donnell leaving shortly before half-time with a head injury. It was a blow for Munster given his performance up until the 37th minute.

O'Donnell was returning to a Munster side that had won three of their previous four games in the Pro12.

Anthony Foley's side also looked in better health with Andrew Conway and CJ Stander back from 'flu and injury, respectively.

The same could not be said for Scarlets who saw second-row Joe Snyman leave the field with a head injury in the 10th minute under the gaze of the new Hawk-Eye system being trialled by World Rugby.

Munster had 70pc of possession in the first half yet trailed 12-6 at the break through their indiscipline, and ended the half down to 14 men after Williams stamped on Harry Robinson.

Yet they seemed the more likely to score when Andrew Conway and Keith Earls counter-attacked.

Conway then raced onto Williams' delightful reverse pass and three times Stander was involved in the build-up towards the Welsh line before O'Donoghue picked up and squeezed over.

Scarlets, unbeaten at home in the Pro12 this season, responded through Kiwi centre Parkes and the boot of Shingler before the late drama unfolded.

Scorers - Scarlets: H Parkes try; S Shingler con, 6 pens. Munster: J O'Donoghue, F Jones, JJ Hanrahan tries; I Keatley 2 cons, 2 pens.

Scarlets: J Williams; H Robinson, R King (R Priestland, h-t), H Parkes, M Tagicakibau; S Shingler (A Warren, 75), A Davies (G Davies, h-t); P John (R Evans, h-t), K Owens (capt), P Edwards (J Adriaanse, 75), L Rawlins, J Snyman (G Earle, 10), A Shingler, J Davies, J Barclay (R McCusker, 75)

Munster: F Jones; A Conway, K Earls, D Hurley (capt), L O'Dea (JJ Hanrahan, 55); I Keatley, D Williams; D Kilcoyne, K O'Byrne (E Guinazu, 48), S Archer (BJ Botha, 48), D O'Callaghan, B Holland, D O'Callaghan, T O'Donnell (P Butler, 37, J O'Donoghue, 48), CJ Stander.

Referee: D Phillips (Ireland)

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