Tuesday 12 November 2019

Off-key O'Gara fails to ignite lacklustre Munster

Scarlets 18 Munster 10

Marc Heywood

Ronan O'Gara failed to find the kind of form Declan Kidney will be looking for at Murrayfield on Sunday as Munster slipped to defeat.

Ronan O'Gara failed to find the kind of form Declan Kidney will be looking for at Murrayfield on Sunday as Munster slipped to defeat.

O'Gara is the firm favourite to replace the injured Jonny Sexton in the Ireland No 10 shirt against Scotland but he did little to cement his spot with an uncharacteristically sloppy showing in Llanelli.

The veteran playmaker missed three shots at goal and was unable to inspire a below-par Munster side to a victory that would have moved them back into the play-off places.

Starting his first game for a month, O'Gara was outshone by opposite number Owen Williams, with the 20-year-old kicking five penalties and a drop goal.

O'Gara wasn't in the minority in terms of having an off-night for Rob Penney's men, though, as they failed to come anywhere close to matching the convincing 30-point win over Edinburgh last time out.

Neither side looked like crossing the tryline until Denis Hurley dotted down with the final play, but at least the Scarlets held on to the ball for long enough to force Munster to infringe on a regular basis, with Williams taking advantage on all but one occasion.

Munster trailed 9-3 at half-time as Williams hit a hat-trick of penalties in comparison to a single strike from O'Gara. With O'Gara surprisingly missing the posts on two occasions inside the opening six minutes, the Scarlets went 6-0 ahead when Williams twice found the target after 13 and 18 minutes.

The Scarlets grew in confidence and twice punctured the Munster defensive line when first Aled Davies and then Gareth Owen made telling breaks, but while Munster's attacking game was far from at its fluent best, their effectiveness at the breakdown meant that the Scarlets never threatened to add to their tally with ball in hand.

It took close to half hour before Munster claimed three points of their own when their dominance at successive scrums eventually saw O'Gara succeed from 25 metres out, but that was as good as it got until Hurley crossed fully 51 minutes later.

Williams added two second-half penalties and a drop goal to push the Scarlets 15 points clear while Munster skipper Mike Sherry was in the sin bin to ensure that Hurley's simple score after Casey Luala's clever step didn't even secure a losing bonus point for O'Gara and Co.

Scorers – Scarlets: O Williams 5 pens, drop goal; Munster: Hurley try, O'Gara pen, con.

Scarlets: G Owen (Nick 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). YC: O Williams (79).

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) (D Varley 64), BJ Botha (S Archer 69); D O'Callaghan (B Holland 69), I Nagle; CJ Stander (S Dougall 59), T O'Donnell, P Butler. YC: Sherry (55).

Referee: D Phillips (IRFU)

Irish Independent

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