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Last Updated: Friday, 30 March 2007, 20:30 GMT 21:30 UK
Scarlets 24-15 Munster
Scarlets celebrate knocking champions Munster out of Europe
Scarlets celebrate knocking champions Munster out of Europe

Scarlets 24 (17)
Tries: James, G Thomas, B Davies.
Cons: S Jones 3.
Pens: B Davies.

Munster 15 (0)
Tries: Dowling, Ryan.
Cons: O'Gara.
Pens: O'Gara.

Munster gave up their Heineken Cup title at Stradey Park as Llanelli Scarlets won through to face Leicester or Stade Francais in the semi-finals.

The Welsh hosts dominated the opening period with tries from Dafydd James and Gavin Thomas, both converted by Stephen Jones, and Barry Davies' long penalty.

Ronan O'Gara got Munster going with a penalty before wing Ian Dowling's try.

But a third Scarlets try from Davies left Munster too much to do, despite Donnacha Ryan's late consolation try.

Munster arrived without skipper Paul O'Connell and the Ireland and Lions lock's leadership and dynamism was sorely missed.

Scarlets, beaten semi-finalists in 2000 and 2002, now face a trip to England or France in three weeks time, depending on Sunday's victor between Leicester and Stade Francais.

It's fantastic to knock out the champions, but we had to fight hard

Scarlets wing Dafydd James

Home fly-half Jones missed an early penalty chance that was simple by the Wales captain's standards.

But the home side were soon ahead through James, as the Heineken Cup's record try scorer added another to bring his all-time tally to 28.

A determined drive by the Scarlets forwards - led by number eight Alix Popham - punched deep into Munster territory, before Dwayne Peel lofted a cross-kick into James' arms.

The former Lion, overlooked by Wales during the Six Nations, ghosted around Denis Leamy and powered to the line, with Jones converting.

O'Gara missed his first penalty attempt to try and get Munster on the score-sheet, then spurned a second chance as the Irish opted to go for an attacking line-out that was repulsed.

Although the Scarlets line-out was not firing on all cylinders, their scrum certainly was and the Munster eight had to suffer the indignity of being shoved off their own ball.

Fortunately for the defending European champions, O'Gara's tactical kicking was coming out of the top draw and he kept pegging the Scarlets back with raking kicks into the corners.

Munster fly-half Ronan O'Gara struggled with his place-kicking
Munster fly-half Ronan O'Gara struggled with his place-kicking

However, the Ireland fly-half was having more of a struggle with his place kicks in a tricky wind and a second chance also went wide.

Scarlets, in contrast, had two kickers in their locker, Jones for the normal attempts and Barry Davies for long-range chances.

The full-back was thrown the ball just once in the first half and made no mistake from just inside his own half, although the ball did have to bounce off the crossbar through the posts.

A 10-0 lead was handy as half-time approached, but the Welsh had one more score up their sleeve that would give them a commanding 17-point advantage.

Hooker Matthew Rees and James drove to within sight of the Munster line before the ball was switched back left for Gavin Thomas to stretch over, Jones again adding the afters.

Munster came flying out of the tunnel for the restart, but Scarlets absorbed the early second-half pressure and slowly began to reassert control.

Wing Mark Jones' chip and chase threatened to claim a third Welsh try before his passage was blocked by Christian Cullen, referee Chris White ruling the collision was accidental.

Then Davies was brought down just short of the Munster line after the full-back found a way through after coming back against the grain.

With their European crown slipping, Munster at last kept their hosts under sustained pressure and O'Gara scored their first points after 61 minutes with a penalty.

The Irish were given further hope moments later when Inoke Afeaki, only just arrived on the pitch as a Scarlets lock replacement, was sin-binned for killing the ball.

Scarlets wing Dafydd James forces his way over for the opening try
Scarlets wing Dafydd James forces his way over for the opening try

A fine backs move then earned Munster a try, although the final pass from Cullen for wing Dowling to go over was horribly forward but not seen by the officials.

Crucially O'Gara missed the difficult touchline conversion to leave Munster 17-8 behind and still needing two more scores.

Despite being a man down, Scarlets conjured a decisive third try as they kept faith with their running game.

Regan King, outstanding all night, found a gap out on the left to send wing Jones away, with lock Scott MacLeod appearing in support to send Davies over with a skilful round-the-corner pass.

Stephen Jones added the conversion to make it 24-8 and leave Munster with too much to do with just seven minutes left.

One last sweeping move from Munster culminated in replacement Ryan going over for a try, O'Gara converting.

It gave the final scoreline some respectability, but their reign as European champions is over.


Scarlets: B Davies; M Jones, R King, Gavin Evans, D James; S Jones, D. Peel; I Thomas, M Rees, D Manu, V Cooper, S MacLeod, S Easterby (capt), G Thomas, A Popham.
Replacement: J. Davies for Manu (78), I Afeaki for Cooper (60), D. Jones for Popham (74). Not Used: K Owens, L. Davies, C. Thomas, M Watkins.

Sin-bin: Afeaki (62).

Munster: C Cullen; J Kelly, L Mafi, T Halstead, I Dowling; R O'Gara (capt), P Stringer; M Horan, J Flannery, J Hayes, D O'Callaghan, M O'Driscoll, A Quinlan, D Wallace, D Leamy.
Replacements: T O'Leary for Dowling (75), D. Ryan for O'Driscoll (78). Not Used: F Sheahan, F Pucciariello, A Foley, J Manning, B Murphy.

Att: 10,800

Referee: Chris White (England)

SEE ALSO
Heineken Cup 2006/7
16 Aug 06 |  Rugby Union
Heineken Cup tables
09 Aug 06 |  Tables
Scarlets 35-11 Dragons
23 Mar 07 |  Llanelli Scarlets
Ulster 21-24 Munster
23 Mar 07 |  Ulster
Stradey to host Scarlets-Munster
22 Jan 07 |  Llanelli Scarlets
BBC Sport Wales coverage
01 May 06 |  Wales


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