Following last Friday’s historic victory against Leinster that saw the West Walians make history by securing the first away win in a League Semi Final, the Scarlets face the final hurdle – the Pro12 Final against Munster in the Aviva Stadium.
Tactically, this Irish Province offers a whole different challenge as they boast the best defensive record in the Pro12. Munster have lost their last three appearances at the Aviva, however, this is the Scarlets’ first visit since the stadium was rebuilt. Again, the Scarlets start the game as underdogs with Munster boasting 16 wins in comparison to the Scarlets’ 10, with 2 drawn games between the two teams in their 28 encounters.
This fixture though is one that has seen Coach Wayne Pivac urge his to team to cement their place in history as they aim to emulate the famous Scarlets of 1973 by creating a piece of history of their own. With the current form, there is no team in the league that deserves it more.
Despite the heavy rain that had fallen for most of the day, the Scarlets began the game using their traditional open style of rugby, somehow finding gaps in the Munster defence. However, a penalty at the scrum saw Munster offer the first chance at points. Silence descended on the Aviva as the League’s leading points scorer Tyler Bleyendal opened the scoring with a well struck penalty to give Munster a 3 point to 0 lead.
The Scarlets struck back immediately with departing Wing Liam ‘Sanjay’ Williams crossing in the corner to give the Scarlets the lead for the first time. Unfortunately, Rhys Patchell was unsuccessful with his tricky conversion attempt, however the try gave the Scarlets 3 points to 5 advantage.
Patchell added a penalty soon after to further increase the Scarlets’ lead to 3 points to 8, but a matter of seconds later superb hands coupled with awful defence from Munster saw Steff Evans cross in the corner for try number 13. Patchell added the conversion and suddenly the Scarlets were ahead by 3 points to 15.
It looked like James Davies was going to be instrumental in setting up try number 3! Despite losing the ball in the last move, securing a free kick from a Munster scrum saw the confidence oozing from the men in Scarlet as they continued testing Munster.
A superb break in mid-field from Scott Williams saw him slice through the Munster defence like butter to release Gareth Davies who crossed under the posts. Adding the easy conversion saw Patchell put the Scarlets ahead by 3 points to 22.
Continuing to play the ball in the Munster half enabled the Scarlets to drive the Munstermen over their own try line to secure the scrum v. As has almost become the norm for the Scarlets, as the clock hit the half hour mark, Tadhg Beirne crossed at close range for the ‘bonus point’ try, leaving Munster totally shell-shocked. Patchell again added the conversion to further rub salt into Munster’s wounds as the visitors opened up a huge 26-point lead – 3 points to 29.
A penalty kick to the corner saw Munster attempt to end the first half with some answer to the complete domination of the men in Scarlet. Unfortunately, Outside Half was able to finish an awful half for his side by squeezing in for their first try. He added the simple conversion to see both teams run in for the end of the first half with the Scarlets leading 10 points to 29.
It was the Scarlets that were offered the first points of the second half as Rhys Patchell’s well-struck penalty saw the Scarlets win both an important psychological battle by securing the first points of the second half, Scarlets’ lead to 10 points to 32.
Superb work from the Scarlets forwards saw them secure ball after ball at the turnover as Munster struggled to find any real tempo. When they did have ball in hand the Munstermen were lateral, and lacked any ambition as the Scarlets continued to totally outplay them in all areas.
As the clock ticked down Pivac sent on the replacements, including Hadleigh Parkes who has played in each one of the Scarlets Pro12 games and Scrum Half Jonathan Evans who yesterday waved off his own stag party!!
A deflated Munster attempted to create some sort of fight back, however, they lacked any creativity and it became obvious that the Scarlets were merely playing down the clock until another break from Scott Williams released the departing DTH for the try that surely sealed a historic victory for the Scarlets…. historic in that they are the only team who will have won the Final without finishing the regular season in the top two, but also winning it by the greatest margin.
With just over 5 minutes left to play Andrew Conway crossed for a consolation try for Munster, with the unsuccessful conversion narrowing the gap slightly to 15 points to 39. However, a converted interception try scored by Keith Earls made Munster’s score line look far more impressive than it actually was – 22 points to 39.
Deservedly, the Scarlets had the last say as James Davies crossed for the final try of the match, allowing the departing Liam Williams to convert to give the Pro12 Winners a 22 point to 46 winning margin! Well done to the entire squad…history has been made!
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