With performances that belied their young years, the Scarlets half back pairing of Aled Davies and Owen Williams controlled the game perfectly to help seal the double win over Munster this season, and their first win against the Irish province ever at Parc y Scarlets.
The game had started nervously for the home side, with two soft penalties conceded early on, yet Ireland international Ronan O’Gara fell short with his first and hit the post with his second attempt, giving the Scarlets side a reprieve.
His opposite number Owen Williams in contrast soon helped build a 6-0 lead for the home side, despite also missing a long range penalty attempt.
In a match in which the breakdown was fierce and defences ruled, it was the Welsh region that was the more disciplined and played the smarter rugby. Aled Davies at scrum half varied his game with sniping runs, accurate box kicks and clinical distribution to bring his teams runners into play.
As half time arrived, the Scarlets entered the break 9-3 up and looking very assured in their lead.
The second half saw the home side extend their lead by a further three points and things got worse for Munster as captain Sherry got sin binned after his side were deemed to have infringed one time too many by referee Dudley Phillips. Williams soon slotted over another three points as the discipline in the Munster pack worsened.
The Scarlets continued to look to move the ball through their backline, eager to score a try, but credit must go to the Munster defence that held firm, often forcing crucial turnovers. Going into the last quarter of the game, the second half had mostly seen possession in the hands of the home side, but as yet another backline move broke down, fly half Williams calmly slotted over a drop goal to seemingly take the game out of sight.
Munster fought their way back into the Scarlets’ territory deep into the last ten minutes of the game. In the 80th minute, just as Owen Williams was announced as man of the match, he was also issued a yellow card for an infringement at the breakdown. With the one man advantage the Irish visitors continued to press at the Scarlets’ try line, finally crossing with a hard earned try from winger Hurley, which O’Gara converted.
The Scarlets, despite conceding at the death, had done enough to deny Munster even a losing bonus point. It was a crucial win for the Welsh region, propelling them back into a playoff spot and providing them with a five point cushion over Munster.
As the home side emerged after the whistle to acknowledge the enthusiastic home support, they will need to take every scrap of confidence gained into what will be a hugely tough fixture away to Leinster next week.
Munster will rue their indiscipline and their lack of composure with the ball in hand, and hope they can put things to rights when they face Treviso away in next week’s fixture.
Referee: Dudley Phillips (IRFU)
Scarlets: Gareth Owen; Liam Williams, Gareth Maule, Adam Warren, Andy Fenby; Owen Williams, Aled Davies; Phil John, Emyr Phillips, Jacobie Adriaanse, George Earle, Johan Synman, Rob McCusker (capt), Josh Turnbull, Kieran Murphy.
Replacements: Kirby Myhill, Rhodri Jones, Samson Lee, Jake Ball, Johnathan Edwards, Gareth Davies, Aled Thomas, Nick Reynolds.
Munster: I Keatley; D Hurley, I Dineen, JJ Hanrahan, J Murphy; R O’Gara, D Williams; W du Preez, M Sherry capt, BJ Botha; D O’Callaghan, I Nagle; CJ Stander, T O’Donnell, P Butler.
Replacements: D Varley, J Ryan, S Archer, B Holland, S Dougall, C Sheridan, D Barnes, C Laulala.